One method of mobilising community agency for the right to health explored in the Learning Network involves the use of Photovoice by Learning Network members. In this project, women from the Learning Network member organisation, The Women's Circle, made use of this method to identify health rights challenges in their community, and, through reflection on the photos, opportunities for action. The Photovoice project involved women from poor townships using cameras – first, to take photos of what health means to them, and thereafter, what human rights mean. The photos were workshopped with the women to reflect on their knowledge and identify action steps. For example, in Delft, one grassroots women’s circles used the photovoice process to identify a hazardous dump site for clean-up by the municipality and to initiate an income-generating recycling project that also sought to address youth unemployment and their susceptibility to involvement with gang activity.
The method involved (a) providing participants with disposable cameras to capture images of health rights violations; (b) developing their pictures; (c) using the pictures in group discussions; and (d) jointly developing action plans to address the problems identified in the photos; (e) tracing the implementation and success or lack thereof of actions taken. Data collection throughout the process provided a rich source of materials for evaluation and for postgraduate student research across a range of disciplines, as well as opportunity to generate advocacy materials that LN member organisations used in lobbying policy-makers for change
Following implementation of the project, an exhibition of their work and their stories was developed, thanks to a grant from the Gordon Institute of Performing and Cultural Arts (GIPCA). The Exhibition was opened on the 6th of October 2013 as part of a joint symposium with the People’s Health Movement on community participation in health. It is used by Learning Network Members in their advocacy work.
More recently, this work has been continued in our collaboration in the Southern African region on Health Centre Committees. As a sub-project to Health Centre Committees as a vehicle for social participation in health systems in East and Southern Africa, we have explored the use of Photovoice to strengthen the effectiveness of HCCs as the interface between the community, health services and policy makers.