The Sony World Photography Awards 2023 recently honoured visual storyteller Lee-Ann Olwage with the first-place award in the professional creative category for her photography series, The Right to Play. Olwage’s work creatively explores the transformative impact of education and empowerment on young girls, using photography as a powerful tool for co-creation and celebration.
Olwage’s multi-award-winning photography highlights the dire state of education for girls worldwide. According to UNESCO, approximately 129 million girls are out of school globally, with only 49% of countries achieving gender parity in primary education, and an even wider gap at the secondary school level. However, through her project, Olwage showcases the world that can exist when girls are given the opportunity to continue learning in an environment that supports them and their dreams.
Capturing the Joy and Empowerment of Girls
Olwage’s The Right to Play project features girls from Kakenya’s Dream in Enoosaen, Kenya, who have avoided Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. In her photography series, Olwage creates an empowering and joyful world where girls are celebrated and shown in an affirming way. The girls are captured in moments of playfulness and exploration, infused with a sense of wonder and possibility for their futures.
Olwage’s work is both deeply personal and universally significant. She uses photography not only to document the lives of these girls but also to tell their stories and advocate for their rights. Her photography series is a testament to the power of education and empowerment in the lives of young girls, and it shines a light on the transformative impact of such work on communities and societies at large.
Recognising the Power of Photography to Create Change
Olwage’s win at the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 is a recognition of her talent and dedication to shining a light on the challenges faced by girls worldwide. It is also a tribute to the power of photography as a medium for creating change and inspiring action. Her work shows that photography can do more than just capture a moment; it can be a potent tool for advocacy, education, and empowerment.
The Sony World Photography Awards 2023 exhibition, featuring Olwage’s prize-winning photographs, is currently open at Somerset House, London. It is a testament to the power of photography to inspire and create change, and it is an opportunity for audiences to engage with the stories and experiences of girls worldwide. Through her work, Olwage reminds us of the transformative power of education and empowerment and the vital importance of investing in the futures of young girls.