Amina Gharred: An SDG ambassador behind the camera
Name: Amina Gharred
Lives in: Tunis, Tunisia
Country of origin: Tunisia
Period in Germany: September to December 2015
Training and research institute: Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen
Occupation: Office Manager at the Tunisia Language Centre
There is no limit to the creative ways in which we can all contribute to advancing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Amina Gharred from Tunisia is an SDG ambassador behind the camera. We talked to her about how she uses photography to encourage people to participate and protect their cultural heritage.
Ms Gharred, what pushed you to use your camera to engage for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Amina Gharred: In August 2017, I was on the Tunisian island of Djerba, taking photos of the deteriorating state of many of its historic buildings. Djerba has a very special architectural heritage which has evolved over thousands of years, but the government and local people don’t give it the care that it deserves. My aim, with my photo documentation, was to shake people into awareness and encourage them to do more to preserve these historical buildings.
The “2030 Agenda: Take a look – Get involved” photo competition organised by Alumniportal Deutschland inspired me to engage artistically with the SDGs. I instantly realised that there was a connection between my own photo project on Djerba and Goal 11 “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, which also includes Target 11.4 “Protect cultural and natural heritage”.
Amina Gharred was a winner of the “2030 Agenda: Take a look – Get involved” photo competition. One of her photos was exhibited at the Global Festival of Action in Bonn in March 2018. Amina also took part in the “Take Action Lab – Success Factors for Citizen Engagement” organised by the Alumniportal. View Amina Gharred’s and the other winning photos in the competition.
But that’s not your only link to the SDGs ...
Amina Gharred: No, as a female photographer in Tunisia, Goal 5 “Gender equality” is of course hugely important to me as well. Since the revolution in 2011, Tunisian women have been searching for a new place for themselves within society. I was one of the young women who wanted the chance to finally express themselves. We wanted to free ourselves through art and shout out our message.
So in 2014, together with seven other women, I set up the Tunisian Association for Female Photographers. Since then, it has been our goal to encourage women, including rural women, to become more visible within society and, above all, to contribute to their country’s development. Women need to become more engaged. Just imagine what we can achieve if we work together!
What do you see as the new and innovative aspect of the SDGs?
Amina Gharred: You know, I think the SDGs and all their targets had been in people’s minds for a very long time. Agenda 2030 pulled them together into a cohesive set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. That was an important step.
Anyone can help to advance the SDGs. My way of making my voice heard is through photography. After 2011 Tunisian Revolution, the camera was my weapon to speak out my own thinking and to tell unheard stories of different regions of Tunisia.
How did you discover photography for yourself?
Amina Gharred: I always enjoyed taking photographs, so I joined a photography club, where I learned the basics. An important milestone for me was taking part in “Blasti – C’est ma place”, a photography project organised in Tunis by SocialVisions, a German NGO, in 2014. The female photographers involved in the project – there were eight of us – looked for “our spaces” across Tunisia and took photos. This enabled us to present our perspectives on public spaces in Tunisia and our perception of the concept of a place for women. The photos were then exhibited in the National Library in Tunis and in Stuttgart City Hall.
Since then, my photography skills have advanced considerably. In 2015, with a grant from the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), I completed three months of practical training in documentary photography at Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, which led to a project about Syrian refugees in Germany. Incidentally, I am now ifa’s Country Representative for the CrossCulture Programme. And I was recently accepted as a member of the Arts Twenty Thirty network, which advocates for the use of artists’ creativity to communicate and inspire action towards the SDGs.
And you surely have other plans as well?
Amina Gharred: Yes! My home town of Mahdia is well-known for its cultural heritage, including its Roman amphitheatre. So I would like to run a photo project to encourage local people, especially the young, to engage for the protection of this cultural heritage. This would benefit not only the cultural gems in our city but also the participants themselves while supporting local sustainable development.
I think documentary photography offers many other opportunities to raise people’s awareness of a whole range of issues: different lifestyles, social injustice, youth unemployment, migration, health and much more. I am a firm believer in picture power!