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The Rwanda Initiative and Photosensitive join forces on innovative 'social photography' project to chronicle Rwanda's struggle with HIV/AIDS

(OTTAWA, Nov. 30, 2007) — The Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication and Photosensitive, a Toronto-based NGO and pioneer of social photography, are mounting an innovative journalistic mission to Rwanda to use the power of images to shed light on Rwanda’s struggle with the AIDS pandemic and to provide training for Rwandan photojournalists..

“The story of the struggle against HIV/AIDS in Africa is something many Canadians care about,” says Journalism Professor Allan Thompson. “But too often people are left with a blur of facts and feel disconnected and powerless.”

On arrival in Kigal, Rwanda, the Photosensitive team was greeted at a Rwanda Initiative reception attended by Canada's ambassador to Rwanda, Ross Hynes. From left, photographers Steve Simon and Tony Hauser, Amb. Ross Hynes, Allan Thompson (Rwanda Initiative director) and photographers Andrew Stawicki, Kevin Van Paassen, Peter Bregg and Yuri Dojc (crouching).

Professor Thompson is the person behind the Rwanda Initiative (www.rwandainitiative.ca), a media development organization that grew out of a partnership between Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication and its counterpart at the National University of Rwanda, in Butare. To date, the Rwanda Initiative partnership has focused on a visiting lecturer program in Rwanda, media training for working journalists, and an internship for journalism students.

The Rwanda Initiative is now partnering with Photosensitive (www.photosensitive.com) to send six prominent Canadian photojournalists who are members of Photosensitive to Rwanda for ten days in early December to photograph the individual stories behind Rwanda’s larger struggle with HIV/AIDS. As part of their mission to capture photographic images for dissemination in Canada, they will also train local photojournalists and produce photo essays on HIV/AIDS as it is lived in Rwanda. The participants, who are all donating their own time for this project, leave Canada on Tuesday, December 4.

In Rwanda, the Photosensitive photojournalists will visit a number of projects to capture images that will help to tell this story: They will visit home visit and feeding programs, chronicle public education through plays and community meetings (for example with a group of young medical students who travel the country using a wooden penis to demonstrate how to use condoms) and meet with people living with AIDS.

Members of the Photosensitive team edit their work at the end of the day. Seated around the table, from left, Steve Simon, Yuri Dojc, Andrew Stawicki, Tony Hauser, Peter Bregg and Kevin Van Paasen. Standing next to Yuri Dojc is Lauren Vopni, an intern from Journalists for Human Rights who is working with the Rwanda Initiative.

Upon their return to Canada, the Photosensitive team will mount a touring exhibit of their photographic work from Rwanda and will also make the photos available through a DVD compilation, internet postings, and other publications. There are plans for the photo exhibit to tour Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and Vancouver.

Six local media outlets in Rwanda will publish photo essays of the content produced during the Rwanda Initiative/ Photosensitive project. There will also be a local exhibition, culminating in a more permanent installation at the National University of Rwanda.

According to the UN, Rwanda has approximately 200,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in a country of less than nine million. The government of Rwanda is the first to use a World Trade Organization waiver to import generic drugs manufactured in other countries to combat HIV/AIDS and a Canadian company has recently been given permission to start production of anti-retrovirals for use in Rwanda. “But sadly, because the regimens often require regular food, many people don’t benefit from the medicine because they cannot afford to eat,” says Professor Thompson.

The effects of the 1994 Genocide also linger in Rwanda. “Sex was used as a weapon and many women were deliberately infected with HIV, in turn infecting their children. As a result the country has many orphans struggling to raise themselves,” says Professor Thompson.

For more information about the photojournalists, partners, and the Rwanda Initiative, please view the attached Backgrounder.



For more information contact:
Prof. Allan Thompson ([email protected])
School of Journalism and Communication
613-520-2600 ext. 7439 (Mobile: 613-799-1791)





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