What is The PhotoVoice Project?

PhotoVoice is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the recovery effort in areas affected by the Great East Japan Disaster. Through photos and “voices” (written messages), women affected by these disasters are able to document and share their experience as disaster victims from a diverse range of perspectives.

| Vision & Mission | History | About Us | One Member’s Voice | Press & Archive | Media Appearances |

The Great East Japan Disaster of March 3rd, 2011

Through this unprecedented barrage of disasters, countless people lost their lives, belongings, and homes. Many people still continue to live while shouldering this fear, sadness, helplessness, and unbelievable pain. The effects of such catastrophes are far-reaching.

Since the disasters, recent studies have also shown that existing trends of gender discrimination towards women have grown stronger, reflected in an increased disparity in wages and employment, a stark division of labor in nursing and childcare services, an increase in sexual violence, and continued under-representation in policy making. Disasters often exacerbate such predisaster inequities and intensify the vulnerability of women and other marginalized and dis-empowered groups. However, it has been repeatedly shown that the perspective and involvement of women are indispensable to post-disaster recovery planning.

Since June of 2011, PhotoVoice has worked with women affected by the disasters, conducting routine meetings with small groups from various regions (see PhotoVoice Meetings) to share photos and stories of their individual experiences.

As members in these meetings, women are invited to share their experiences with pain and loss, deriving meaning from their observations in a way that can be applied to problems in their region and society at large.

Through this exchange, participants foster mutual understanding as well as a means to support one another. Participants also devote time and effort to develop messages (“voices”) based on their discussions that they would like to share with their community, which are displayed with accompanying photographs at exhibitions and community forums.

By recording and displaying the experiences of these women in disaster and recovery, we are able to preserve a vital piece of the story of the disasters. These photos and voices have the power to identify regional and societal problems, inspiring those who see and read them to think of more effective disaster prevention and recovery policies.

For members, PhotoVoice meetings provide a space to verbalize and share experiences and memories that were otherwise difficult to put into words.

In an exhibition and meeting in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture in January 2014, one member of our Sendai group provided us with this message: “With nerves and anticipation high, together we cried, fumed, and laughed as we flipped through photo after photo, all the while thinking how wonderful it is to be able to share our struggles with others.”

To resume daily life and work while carrying such feelings of disorder, anxiety, and grief, many feel they have to bottle these emotions to move forward. It is vital that we provide such people a space where they feel they can share those struggles.

We at PhotoVoice are working with women affected by the Great East Japan Disaster, using photos as a means to capture personal experience and emotions, while creating a space to share, understand, and support fellow victims on their road to recovery. These photos and “voices” also serve to spark discussion towards improved disaster policies and responses.