A Loyalist College Photojournalism graduate Farzana Wahidy is the recipient of the 2016 Premier’s Award for Creative Arts and Design.
Farzana was born and raised in Afghanistan during the civil war and Taliban regime. It was a time when women’s education was prohibited and photography was a crime. Farzana secretly attended school and when the Taliban was defeated she continued her education and completed high school. Her journey led her to Loyalist’s Photojournalism program.
“There was a time when I dreamed of the work I would do,” said Farzana. “I wanted to express myself as an Afghan woman living in a male-dominated country, but also become a voice for Afghan women who need their stories to be told. Loyalist, and the people who supported me, helped me to raise this voice and make it stronger. This may be normal in Canada, but in my country it is not. It is just a dream for the majority. I thank Loyalist for making my dreams come true and the Premier’s Award selection committee for the honour.”
Farzana worked as the first female Afghan photojournalist for several international wire service agencies. She has won various awards and returned to Afghanistan to capture the life of Afghan women, ensuring their stories are told.
“Loyalist is extremely proud of Farzana’s achievements,” said Loyalist College President & CEO, Ann Marie Vaughan. “Her strength, perseverance and dedication to women’s issues inspire us to pursue our paths with conviction.”
As an active contributor to the Afghan Photography Network, Farzana raises awareness of what is happening in Afghanistan and creates opportunities for an international audience to experience Afghanistan through Afghan eyes.
Farzana recently launched the Afghan Photographers Association and the Afghan Photo Agency. Both endeavours are registered with the Ministry of Information and Culture in Afghanistan. The Afghan Photographers Association advocates, trains and promotes photographers and photography in and outside of Afghanistan. The Afghan Photo Agency grants local media legal access to high quality images. It is a platform for Afghan photographers to display their work and to keep Afghanistan in the picture of mainstream media.
The Premier’s Awards recognize outstanding college graduates who work to improve the social and economic well-being of those in their communities and around the world. This year’s awards were held at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto on November 21 as part of the Higher Education Summit.