Paula Lerner and Bpeace in Afghanistan
Bpeace in Afghanistan is a remarkable blog that chronicles an eponymous NGO dedicated to helping women run their own businesses in Afghanistan:
Our belief is that when women are strong economically, they have a strong voice for peace in their local communities and societies. Very simply--more jobs mean less violence. In conflict or post-conflict regions—like Afghanistan—Bpeace identifies and assists the businesswomen most likely to succeed. These women demonstrate high potential by already operating businesses (against all odds and sometimes cultural norms. We call these emerging entrepreneurs Fast Runners, and have built a Bpeace three-year program and system around them. Through the volunteer efforts of our members, Bpeace provides them with distance mentoring, training and networking opportunities; improves access to financing; helps develop local and international markets for their products and services and creates global awareness of their remarkable talent and courage.
Paula Lerner, a Massachusetts photographer, made three trips to Afghanistan in 18 months to volunteer with Bpeace.
Here's Lerner's Afghanistan gallery on her personal website. Highlights: a portrait of a woman in a burqa, a snowy hillside framed by a car window, a mother comforting her sick daughter, and this shot of Afghan women working out at a female-owned gym (the owner is a Bpeace associate).
I just encountered Lerner's work today, and she has already become one of my favorite contemporary photographers. I love her series entitled A Widow on Welfare about a Massachusetts women raising her children on public assistance after the death of her husband. This image of the mother play fighting with her son is especially powerful--the two are clearly horsing around, but you can see the tension on the mother's face just below the surface.