The Norman Transcript

N-town stories

April 12, 2013

OU photography exhibit empowers women and girls



“One woman teacher named Fahima in the exhibition was educating girls during the Taliban’s rule in Kabul, Afghanistan,” Borges said. “She did it clandestinely by getting them into her home and if the religious police came pounding on the door wondering why all these girls were there, she’d strategically put sewing machines up around the room.”

In Fahima’s photograph you see a gaze into the lense that’s strong and resolute. After defiantly surviving harassment and threats by clerical zealots there may be a hint of triumphant amusement in her eyes as well.

Borges has learned that every culture has its blind spots and working to right injustice doesn’t benefit from ham-handed approaches.

“The way to make a change isn’t by force,” he said. “Threatening people with force doesn’t work because the human spirit is so strong it makes them feel justified in their beliefs. It almost always has to be done from within.”

Borges cited as example the practice of female genital cutting (or female genital mutilation) which is a deeply rooted belief among many African tribes.

“It’s a rite of passage and part of their culture just as we have our own rites,” he said.

Female genital cutting however may result in death from infection, crippling the woman in some respects and depriving her of sexual satisfaction.

“Coming in to a culture and telling them to quit it just doesn’t work,” Borges said. “You have to have someone within that tribe realize the problems it causes and convince others to make a change. It’s a slow process that takes a lot of dedication.”

Borges is optimistic about the forward progress for empowering women and girls.

“Without a doubt it’s happening,” he said. “Look at our country, my grandmother could not vote until she was in her 40ss. It’s a well-supported and documented movement that’s gaining momentum. I’m very happy to be a part of that movement and to see it succeeding.”

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