Finding Freedom in the Water

  • A young woman learns to float in the Indian Ocean off of Nungwi, Zanzibar.

  • Swim instructor Kazija, 22, teaches Kijini Primary School students how to float in the Indian Ocean off of Muyuni, Zanzibar.

  • Kijini Primary School students learn to float, swim and perform rescues in the Indian Ocean off of Muyuni, Zanzibar.

  • Swim instructor Siti, 24, helps a girl float in the Indian Ocean off of Nungwi, Zanzibar.

  • Kijini Primary School students walk to shore after their lesson in the Indian Ocean off of Muyuni, Zanzibar.

  • Kazija teaches girls how to kick their legs in the water in Muyuni, Zanzibar.

  • Students rest on shore after their lesson in Kendwa, Zanzibar.

  • Full-length swimsuit tops hang on a clothesline outside the home of Kazija’s mother in Nungwi, Zanzibar.

  • Swim instructor Chema, 17, snaps her fingers as she disappears underwater in Nungwi, Zanzibar.

  • Students line up on shore after learning to swim and perform rescues in Muyuni, Zanzibar.

{"id":10678,"grant_id":9,"user_id":26037,"grant_submission_status_id":4,"grant_result_type_id":null,"cover_block_id":120596,"story_id":null,"place_id":null,"title":"Finding Freedom in the Water","excerpt":null,"excerpt_raw":null,"body":"<p>Daily life in the Zanzibar Archipelago centers around the sea, yet the majority of girls who inhabit the islands never acquire even the most fundamental swimming skills. Conservative Islamic culture and the absence of modest swimwear have compelled community leaders to discourage girls from swimming. Until now.<\/p>\n\n<p>For the past few years, the Panje Project has made it possible for local women and girls to get into the water, not only teaching them swimming skills but aquatic safety and drowning prevention techniques. The group has empowered its students to teach others, creating a sustainable cycle. Students are also provided full-length swimsuits, so that they can enter the water without compromising their cultural and religious beliefs.<\/p>\n\n<p>While the wearing of full-length swimsuits may be seen as subjugation, donning one in order to learn a vital life skill, which has long been and would otherwise be forbidden, is an important first step toward emancipation. Education \u2014 whether it be in or out of the water \u2014 serves as a springboard providing women and girls the empowerment and tools with which to claim their rights and challenge existing barriers.<\/p>\n\n<p>The rate of drowning on the African continent is the highest in the world. Still, many community leaders have yet to warm up to the idea of women and girls learning to swim. The lessons challenge a patriarchal system that discourages women from pursuing things other than domestic tasks. It is this tension of the freedom one feels in and under water juxtaposed with the limitations imposed upon Zanzibari women that is at the heart of this series.<\/p>","body_raw":"Daily life in the Zanzibar Archipelago centers around the sea, yet the majority of girls who inhabit the islands never acquire even the most fundamental swimming skills. Conservative Islamic culture and the absence of modest swimwear have compelled community leaders to discourage girls from swimming. Until now.<\/p>\n\nFor the past few years, the Panje Project has made it possible for local women and girls to get into the water, not only teaching them swimming skills but aquatic safety and drowning prevention techniques. The group has empowered its students to teach others, creating a sustainable cycle. Students are also provided full-length swimsuits, so that they can enter the water without compromising their cultural and religious beliefs.\n\nWhile the wearing of full-length swimsuits may be seen as subjugation, donning one in order to learn a vital life skill, which has long been and would otherwise be forbidden, is an important first step toward emancipation. Education \u2014 whether it be in or out of the water \u2014 serves as a springboard providing women and girls the empowerment and tools with which to claim their rights and challenge existing barriers.\n\nThe rate of drowning on the African continent is the highest in the world. Still, many community leaders have yet to warm up to the idea of women and girls learning to swim. The lessons challenge a patriarchal system that discourages women from pursuing things other than domestic tasks. It is this tension of the freedom one feels in and under water juxtaposed with the limitations imposed upon Zanzibari women that is at the heart of this series.\r\nWe gain a passionate teacher committed to empowering girls to be safe in the water. A role model advocating a girl\u2019s right not to drown. A leader willing to buck traditional power structure in order to contribute to society outside the sphere of her home.\r\n\r\nEmbracing values learned in the water\u2014courage, delayed gratification, goal-setting\u2014she shifts fear and trepidation to confidence and joy. She learns that with the right attitude, her world\u2014and influence upon it\u2014expands. She is engaged in building a more equitable community.\r\n\r\nDaily life in the Zanzibar Archipelago centers around the sea, yet the majority of girls who inhabit the islands never acquire even the most fundamental swimming skills. Conservative Islamic culture and the absence of modest swimwear have compelled community leaders to discourage girls from swimming. Until now.\r\n\r\nWomen are making it possible for local women and girls to get into the water, teaching them swimming skills, aquatic safety and drowning prevention techniques. Students are empowered to teach others, creating a sustainable cycle, and are provided full-length swimsuits, to enter the water without compromising their cultural and religious beliefs.\r\n\r\nWhile the wearing of full-length swimsuits may be seen as subjugation, donning one in order to learn a vital life skill, which has long been and would otherwise be forbidden, is an important first step toward emancipation. Education\u2014whether it be in or out of the water\u2014serves as a springboard providing women and girls the empowerment and tools with which to claim their rights and challenge existing barriers.\r\n\r\nDrowning on the African continent is the highest in the world (20x the UK\u2014rivaling Malaria in lives lost). Still, many community leaders have yet to warm up to the idea of women learning to swim. The lessons challenge a patriarchy that discourages women from pursuing things other than domestic tasks. The tension of the freedom one feels in and under water juxtaposed with the limitations imposed upon Zanzibari women is the heart of this series.\r\n\r\nGiven the response these photographs have received\u2014and with support from the PHmuseum 2018 Women Photographers Grant\u2014I wish to further enrich, diversify and expand my story by investigating two additional programs that are empowering women through aquatic safety\u2014exemplifying what years of instruction in Zanzibar can do.\r\n\r\nIn addition to photographing new and unique aquatic situations, I wish to provide broader context into the daily lives of first-generation Zanzibari swim girls by photographing these young women at home with their families, engaging with their communities, during prayer, studying at madrasa, visiting the amusement park, and traveling by school bus\/dhow\/ferry, etc. Swim instructor, Kazija, 24, with a newborn, continues to teach in the water, while Siti, 26, unprecedentedly, is learning to scuba dive.\r\n\r\nThe completed body of work will be suitable for international exhibition and publication in book form.\r\n\r\nWhen I first visited Zanzibar, I was told that girls don\u2019t swim, to which I replied, \u201cThis one does.\u201d That girl is leading the way as I\u2008continue this important work.","is_shortlisted":1,"is_strong":0,"is_ongoing":1,"is_unpublished":0,"sent_first_email_reminder":0,"started_at":"2016-01-01 00:00:00","ended_at":null,"created_at":"2018-10-09 21:17:08","updated_at":"2018-10-25 16:56:32","place":null,"publications":[],"categories":[],"tags":[{"id":18528,"tag":"indianocean zanzibar patriarchy","created_at":"2018-10-13 20:10:21","updated_at":"2018-10-13 20:10:21","pivot":{"grant_submission_id":10678,"tag_id":18528}}],"blocks":[{"id":120596,"grant_submission_id":10678,"story_block_id":null,"image_id":230316,"position":-1,"created_at":"2018-10-13 19:59:21","updated_at":"2018-10-13 20:14:14","caption":"A young woman learns to float in the Indian Ocean off 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19:59:20"},"story_block":null},{"id":120595,"grant_submission_id":10678,"story_block_id":null,"image_id":230315,"position":1,"created_at":"2018-10-13 19:59:20","updated_at":"2018-10-13 20:14:14","caption":"Kijini Primary School students learn to float, swim and perform rescues in the Indian Ocean off of Muyuni, Zanzibar.","caption_raw":"Kijini Primary School students learn to float, swim and perform rescues in the Indian Ocean off of Muyuni, Zanzibar.","deleted_at":null,"image":{"id":230315,"filename":"\/users\/26037\/grant-submissions\/10678\/pgjziweb05dcd5b7.jpg","created_at":"2018-10-13 19:59:20","updated_at":"2018-10-13 19:59:20"},"story_block":null},{"id":120592,"grant_submission_id":10678,"story_block_id":null,"image_id":230312,"position":2,"created_at":"2018-10-13 19:59:20","updated_at":"2018-10-13 20:14:14","caption":"Swim instructor Siti, 24, helps a girl float in the Indian Ocean off of Nungwi, Zanzibar.\r\n","caption_raw":"Swim instructor Siti, 24, helps a girl float in the 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