Bringing about change in gender equality

“I am an international freelance photographer, a published documentary artist, a business professional and an activist. Currently, I am also Empower Women Champion for Change 2016-2017 and co-leading the campaign #BreakTheGlass

“I went to art school to learn photography for a year and was awed that photography was such a powerful medium of expression. Since then, apart from my other diverse work, I have been using the medium to share visual narratives to address social issues and make a positive impact.

“In 2016, I had my first book published, ‘Women in Green and Beyond’ – a powerful visual narrative on women in sports, specifically the Pakistan’s Women’s Cricket Team, that aims to initiate discourse on gender equality and add to the global gender conversation.

“Growing up I realized that in South Asian culture, women were always expected to assume ‘certain roles’, and that they would generally settle for less in life! I have grown up with the desire to motivate women to constantly push themselves and to dream big. For this purpose, for the past 7-8 years, I have been working on projects that celebrate empowered women and present them as heroes to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Although ‘Breaking the Glass Ceiling’ was first used by feminists some two decades ago, as a metaphor for invisible barriers, mainly for women and minorities that prevented their advancement in the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications and achievements, we thought that this campaign should not be restricted alone to the corporate world, but rather should be inclusive of all fronts where a woman face barriers and that limits her from achieving her full economic potential. This barrier could be because to her culture, societal norms, behavior and gender role expectations, age, ethnicity etc.

Photography or any other service for that matter is relationship-based. The photographer and his subject share a unique relationship of trust and comfort, otherwise he/she won’t sit in front of your lens. I have moved continents every few years in the last decade, and building relationships from scratch in new countries take time, and at times it can become a challenge.


I would encourage all of you to join this campaign and similar campaigns to bridge the gender inequality gap going forward. I know that it a thought changing process and it will take its course, but I am happy that at least I am part of this important process. To join us go to: Here are some key take-aways:

  1. Women are re-defining the strength of a woman by defying stereotypes and breaking barriers across disciplines. Women are taking up roles that used to be only for men are trying to create equal economic opportunities for themselves and other women.
  2. Men who are advocates of women economic empowerment can extend their support to women in various ways: by having inclusive policies at work, or by supporting their partners or daughters at home to become economically empowered.
  3. We are focused also on young girls and boys (aged 6-12) and how they perceive their own capabilities and that of the opposite gender.


The UAE has a lot to offer in terms of art and culture. As a photographer, you are either looking for commissioned work or for personal projects and in either case, you have to be proactive in reaching out to potential clients or sponsors.

  1. Try going through works of great artists and study their styles. See what speaks to you and what doesn’t and more importantly why.
  2. Identify your preferences and ponder where those preferences come from. That way you become more aware of yourself, which will eventually help you determine your own style.
  3. With time your preferences change and so would your style, so don’t be afraid to try new things as it will only help you evolve as an artist.
  4. Be critical of your work and open to feedback. Ask friends and mentors about their perspective on your work; you might not have thought about it that way.
  5. Stay true to your art. Remember that each one of us is unique in our own way; embrace that uniqueness and try incorporating it in your work.
  6. I would also suggest going through some formal training. The skills that you would acquire through that would also set you apart from others.
  7. Stay positive and keep at it! Happy Shooting!
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Instagram and twitter: @mahwashr

Note: This article is a repost

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