talking photos – defending human rights

Human rights defenders in two communities in the Far North of Cameroon took part in the talking photos – defending human rights project.  Thirty-two active members of the human rights group MDDHL – Mouvement pour la défense des droits de l’homme et des libertés (Movement for the Defense of Human Rights and Liberties), used photography as a way to discuss issues relevant to their organization’s mission and clearly map out strategies for realizing change.  Members of two of the organization’s satellite offices – in Maroua and Mokolo – participated.

Created in 1993 in Maroua, MDDHL conducts training programmes on human rights, performs land inquests, undertakes whistle-blowing activities and denounces human rights abuses.  With its headquarters in Maroua and several satellite offices, MDDHL is an internationally recognized front-line human rights defense organization.

Participants photographed issues that they felt should be addressed by MDDHL.  While the two groups worked in different communities, many common threads existed between the types of issues they wanted to work on.  Some produced more photos and discussion. During the project, Mokolo was the epicenter of Cameroon’s worst cholera epidemic in 20 years with 7000 cases nationally (85% in the Far North) and at least 500 dead.  Consequently, cholera, water and healthcare were the focus of many discussions. However, other common themes emerged.  Click on the images below to view.

Child exploitation

Education & family

Justice & corruption

Water access and sanitation

Health care and cholera

Drugs, alcohol & delinquency


Discussions on the issues led into explorations of the changes in knowledge, attitude or behaviour participants were looking to realize.  Further sessions explored which partners were responsible for changes, what strategies could be employed, and how MDDHL would know efforts were moving forward. The photographs, therefore, fed into a strategic planning process called

Outcome Mapping that asks participants to discuss and plan out how they will achieve the social changes they want to see in the world.

To safeguard participants, these photos do not mention by name the person who took the image. This is because participants are human rights defenders who often face harassment or imprisonment for their efforts.  Instead the photo credit includes a number referring to the individual and the location where the picture was taken.


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