Westlake Girls go global

17 August 2015, 10:18 UTC | New Zealand
© Ella Wilson
Molly Pottinger - Coombes - Member of Westlake Girls High School Amnesty International Group.

If someone had told our Amnesty International group at the start of the year that a world famous photographer would be coming to write about our group at Westlake Girls, I don’t think anyone would have believed them.

But after entering our group’s idea into a competition, and hearing we’d won, this dream suddenly became a reality.

Paola Gianturco is an American photojournalist currently working on her sixth book, entitled ‘Wonder Girls’, which she is co-writing with her 10 year old granddaughter, Alex. She has been travelling around the world to hear from and photograph girls activist groups aged 10-18 and flew to New Zealand from Bali, where she heard from a girls activist group trying to reduce plastic bag consumption.

She came to New Zealand to talk to our Amnesty group at Westlake Girls and attend the action we had been planning, ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Through this action, we hoped to educate other girls at the school about the oppression many women all around the world face everyday.

We had the girls in the group dress in black, with one ‘cultural item’ of their choice, whether that be a scarf or a necklace or another item, we wanted to show the widespread nature of the issue.

We also taped everyone’s mouths, to represent their lack of freedom of speech, and wrote words on the tape to show the different ways that women are oppressed, such as religion and education.

We made good use of the many talents we have in our Amnesty group and had a dance performance, speeches and a spoken word poem, all shaped by the theme of women’s oppression. We ended the action by passing around a petition for people to sign, calling for the Paraguayan government to allow a ten year old rape victim the right to a safe abortion.

Paola photographed us at all stages of the action, and afterwards interviewed six of us to use in her book.

It was an honour to have Paola come to New Zealand for us, and we can’t wait to see her new book when it comes out!

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