Safiyya Daba, a Nigerian amateur photographer cum techie, was one of the winners at the recently held Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Awards, an initiative of African Women in Media (AWiM), in collaboration with African Union and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ/GmbH)
By Adam Alqali
When Safiyya Daba, a trained nurse turned rookie photographer, shot her would-be award-winning photograph at the onset of the 2019 harmattan season in remote rural parts of Kano, Nigeria’s second city, she had no inkling how far the picture would travel and how it was going to transform her amateur photography carrier.
Daba’s snapshot of a shirtless teenage boy scooping water from a stream in rural Kano eventually won in the Agriculture, Rural Environment, Land Rights and Skills Development Category of the Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Awards for African Female Journalists. The Awards is an initiative of the African Women in Media (AWiM), an international nonprofit focused on impacting the way media functions in relation to African women, in collaboration with the African Union and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ/GmbH).
Now in her mid-twenties, the cub photographer had in 2020 graduated with Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Maryam Abacha American University of Niger (MAAUN) in Maradi, around 150 miles northwest of Kano across the border in Niger Republic. A passionate techie, Daba is a member of Google Developer Groups (GDGs), a cluster of developers interested in Google’s developer technology. She also leads the Women Techmakers initiative in Kano; created by Google to provide visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.
From Nursing to Photography
Although she majored in clinical nursing at the university, Daba’s passion was far away from the hospital; she subsequently found herself in vocations that are not even remotely connected to her course of specialization. “Nursing was my major at Maryam Abacha American University of Niger (MAAUN) but it wasn’t my major at heart. My mum wanted me to read something to do with health sciences. I dropped nursing to join the tech ecosystem for the passion I have for Information Technology,” the registered nurse told African Newspage.
As fate would have it, in November 2019 Daba became one of twenty select young people from across Northern Nigeria to participate in a 5-day photo-camp in Kano, led by world-renowned National Geographic (NG) photographers. The participants were trained in media literacy, storytelling, digital photography as well as photojournalism, as part of the Visual Storytelling Fellowship by the global nonprofit Equal Access International (EAI), aimed at empowering the region’s youth to become engaged citizens, visual storytellers, and peacebuilders.
Daba’s participation in the photo-camp ignited an undying passion for photography in her. “Most of our facilitators were women, seeing how far they had gone in their photography carriers inspired me to begin to take pictures in my community. I decided not to let others tell our story but to tell it from my own perspective. Therefore, immediately after my training with National Geographic, I decided to embark on a tour around Kano state, to learn about the communities and take as many pictures as I could,” she recalls.
It was in the course of her photography tour around Kano that Daba shot her award-winning picture of the teenage boy fetching water from a stream to water his family’s plantation in Takai, 50 miles east of Kano.
The Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Awards
The Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Awards is part of the Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Project for African Female Journalists, an initiative of AWiM in collaboration with AU and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ/GmbH). The awards ceremony, which held virtually on 28 July, recognized and celebrated outstanding female journalists whose photo submissions were assessed against varied categories in accordance with the goals and aspirations of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want is the blueprint for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. Set to be achieved within a 50-year period (2013–2063), Agenda 2063 is Africa’s preeminent framework whose major goal is bringing about the continent’s inclusive and sustainable development.
Accordingly, the Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Awards is meant to transform and change narratives and stereotypes about Africa and Africans as well as inculcating the spirit of Pan Africanism as envisioned in Aspiration 5 of Agenda 2063. It seeks to achieve that by tapping into the artistic and creative fundamentals of journalism to portray Africa’s diversity, rich heritage, cultural diversity as well as the continent’s economic and social transformation being led by Africans, in line with the AU theme for the year 2021: “Art’s Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.
“African journalists have a key role to play in defining Africa’s development narrative and how we want Africans and the world to view the continent. Photojournalism is a significant lever for storytelling and this project aims to showcase the work undertaken by journalists to capture the stories of this continent through powerful, compelling imagery and also to provide them with the technical training and skills that will enhance their ability to do their work;” said Leslie Richer, the African Union Director for Information and Communication.
Winning the award
AWiM, AU and GIZ believe in the power of pictures to reflect everyday life experiences of Africans and as a valuable tool for storytelling, hence the launch of the Agenda 2063 Photojournalism Project for African Female Journalists. The Project also aims to build the capacity of African female journalists to enable them enhance their craft and storytelling ability through the use of imagery.
Daba, who learnt about the Awards from a fellow participant at the EAI-NG photo-camp said her participation in the award programme was the first time she was competing in a photography competition. Thus, when she received an email from AWiM informing her she had emerged among the finalists, she was as shocked as she was elated. “When I was announced a winner on the day of the awards ceremony I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. It was such a great honour competing alongside professional photographers and photojournalists; I was really humbled.”
Other award winners included Fardosa Hussein (Africa’s young research excellence and innovative solution building); Arlette Bashizi (Good governance: Human rights, justice and rule of law); as well as Vanessa Chebet (Regional economic integration, transport and information structure). In addition, there were Miriam Watsemba (Silencing the Guns in Africa: Conflict prevention and transformation, mediation); and Shirah Paul Mukama (Democracy and digitalization).
No doubt, winning the Agenda 2063 Africa Photojournalism Award has transformed young Daba’s fledgling photography career. “Winning the award is really a great achievement for me, it has inspired me to want to take more pictures that will promote positive change in my society. I also want to encourage more women from Northern Nigeria to break this barrier of women not going into photography which is viewed as ‘men’s occupation.’”
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