Through my Lens: Accidental Activism
2020 will be remembered as the year that the Novel Coronovirus, Covid 19,
decimated global healthcare systems and economies. As well as caused unprecedented
death tolls and grief. The Rotary Peace Fellows of Class 29 became part of Class 30. A
quick pivot due to travel restrictions enabled the first ever Virtual Peace Fellowship to
launch in February 2021. Having just completed Week 5, I can reflect on the many Tools
that we have been provided to navigate Peacebuilding, Trauma, Conflict Data Analysis,
I am no stranger to conflict. In the 1990’s I documented the Civil War in Romania,
Perestroika in Russia, numerous Canadian and International events. In 2010 I was an
embedded Documentarian/Combat Cameraperson with Canadian and NATO Troops in
Kandahar, Afghanistan. As a female cameraperson I had access to Afghan women and
their stories, while respecting their cultural norms. I chose to be on the frontlines;
Afghan women, and children did not. This is their home.
Being a Cameraperson enables you to literally, and emotionally, change your lens
or “Gender Spectacles” on a daily basis. The capacity to manage violence, and
carnage, is crucial to be able to do the work effectively. I hit the ground running in
Afghanistan. I wanted to bear witness to the stories that are not usually shown on the
News. Women making change, working together as Afghan Citizens, Coalition Troops,
and Peacebuilders. Women united to move the situation forward despite constant
harassment, brutality, and targeted assassinations.
Outside the Wire, released in 2010 on Canadian Television. Afghan women asked
me to return and document their service to country as Police and Military women.
Returning to Afghanistan in 2012, 2014, and 2016 to complete Burkas2Bullets. B2B,
received 5 International Film Festival Awards in 2018. My journey continues;
documenting the success of the Rotary Polio Vaccination Program in Afghanistan. The
program reinforced to me the importance of the work that is being done on the ground
by various stakeholders.
This is one of my favourite pictures from 2012. It was a Shura on the French Base,
in Afghanistan. The meeting was to support local midwives, and their training with
advice from both a NATO, and local Doctor. The female soldiers, NATO Doctor, and
Afghan Midwives were united in a shared vision. They were supported by some of the
men in the community, and the Base Commander. A great example of shared wisdom,
resources, and respect.
We are now 20 years into the conflict in Afghanistan. I have always believed that it
will be 30 years before we can really see the benefits of all of the unified Peacebuilding,
and Nato measures that have been deployed to support Afghanistan as a Nation. The
people of the land have learned to counter tragedy with resilience, and a strengthened
hope for the future. Proud to be a Rotary Peace Fellow; my work is just beginning!
Alison MacLean : Canada ( www.tomboyproductions.tv)
Rotary Peace Fellow : Class 30
Vimeo Link : Burkas2Bullets – Scene – Nijrab NATO French Base -2018