Photovoice: A high-impact research method that empowers women

Photovoice was the focus of a special workshop at the FISH-sponsored 7th Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries conference in Bangkok on 18-21 October 2018.

The workshop – ‘Photovoice: Researching gender in aquaculture and fisheries though the camera lens’ – was run by Dr. Janine Pierce, an adjunct research fellow at the University of South Australia.

“Photovoice is an increasingly used research method that gives participants cameras to take photos on loosely worded themes and, usually, to write accompanying comments in a diary. It is explained as a feminist research method, as it is empowering and respectful, giving the chance to participants, often women, who may not have had a voice previously to tell their story.”

In her workshop, Dr. Pierce outlined the photovoice process, gave examples of photovoice projects and described the different steps in the research process. Findings of photovoice projects are usually presented in exhibitions, to inform decision-makers of outcomes of projects or to highlight issues needing to be addressed.

Catalyzing change

The use of a more participatory ap­proach to fisheries research has largely arisen from a move towards interactive governance and par­ticipation in fisheries management, as well as recognition of the importance of collaborative learning in small-scale fisheries.

“At its heart, photovoice seeks to make community needs more visible and to empower participants to push for change at the in­dividual, community and policy levels,” says Dr. Fiona Simmance, a small-scale fisheries scientist at WorldFish, who attended the conference and used the research method in the small-scale inland capture fishery of Lake Chilwa, Malawi.

“As a participatory method, photovoice offers considerable promise for capturing the unique perspectives of vulnerable, uneducated and marginalized populations, such as wom­en in fisheries, because of its flexibility in design and use…