Celebrate Women

CELEBRATE WOMEN is an open invitation series that recognizes International Women's Day. Participants are asked to respond to the question "what empowers you?" and exert as much control over their visual narratives as possible by choosing their own props, poses, captions, and the final image selected. Last year, 70 women participated in Shanghai and New York City, and the series was viewed online over 20,000 times in the first week of online publication. This year, the series expanded to include women from India, Thailand, and England through a partnership with Daughters Rising and Lensational. CELEBRATE WOMEN was presented at the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women and 2017 Ladyfest Shanghai. Below are some of images from CELEBRATE WOMEN 2017. You can view the full series on at facebook.com/celebratewomenseries or instagram.com/celebratewomenseries.

01 Tatiana by Dylan Wang (Shanghai, China)

“Food empowers me, because it has made me proud of my identity. Kids at school would make fun of my Chinese snacks because they looked “gross” and smelled “weird”, and it made me insecure about my ethnicity. As I got older, I realized that your culture is something that should be celebrated, because there is so much beauty in diversity. Food has the ability to tell a story, and its flavors, smells, and looks reflect the rich traditions and heritage behind it.”  
 02 Angelica by Brian Ho, Shanghai, China

“Everybody has something to say about women's bodies from how they are clothed to how many people they've been shared with to how much space they occupy to how they are nourished and groomed. I grew up hearing phrases like "don't cut your hair" or "don't sit that way, you're a lady." My tattoos are a frequent reminder to myself and others that my body is my own. It exists for me. It is my way of experiencing the world around me. My body is my own, therefore I can do with it what I please."

 03 Melissa by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China

"I am empowered by my scar. It reminds me that even though I can't control what happens to me, there is power in positivity, persistence and loved ones. My scar fades away the stress over the little things by contextualizing my challenges - and I have found happiness in that."

 04 Claire by Cindy Hu, NYC, USA

“This backpack empowers me because it reminds me to be humble as the world is so big, to be curious as there are so many new adventures and opportunities out there to explore and to not be bothered by all the unnecessary things that can’t fit into a backpack.”

 05 Alicia by David Santiano, Shanghai, China

“Debbie Allen. Zora Neale Hurston. Phylicia Rashad. Toni Morrison. Roberta Flack—examples of powerful, strong, & beautiful black women who empower me to be better than, different than, & more than what society thinks I should be.”

 06 Nikkhila Dega by David Hoffmann, London
"It is empowering not to feel like I need to straighten my hair every day anymore. I used to have an idea of what I wanted to look like based on those around me or how I thought others would perceive me. Now I feel comfortable enough to just look like me"
 07 Joanna by Nicole Chan, Shanghai, China
“Reading empowers me by expanding my knowledge and firing my imagination. Writing books gives me the opportunity to empower others by doing the same for them.”
 08 Noon by Daughters Rising, Mae Wang, Thailand

“I am empowered by freedom and travel. I am from a small Karen village in Thailand.  Most women in my community can not drive and do not own cars. Last week I got my drivers license.”

 09 Meizhi by Brian Ho, Shanghai, China
“Football or soccer or whatever you want to call makes me feel powerful. I feel so empowered walking onto the field with my team and putting our heart and soul into the game. The game has taught me to never give up and to support each other. Sadly, women in athletics do not get enough recognition and respect. But I believe that we are strong, and we are powerful.”

10 Kayla by Daughters Rising, Mae Wang, Thailand
“My style is an important vehicle for me to consciously represent my range of cultural influences and express myself in defiance of the opinions others put onto my body. My girly rituals are sacred to me. As a woman, the world doesn't allow space for me to be myself freely. I want to create that freedom in my own life and hold space for other women to do the same.”


11 Roopa by Nicole Chan, Shanghai, China
“I draw strength from staying socially, politically, and culturally engaged, and from helping others to become engaged. Everyone deserves the chance to know and understand what is going on in the world around them. I see it as my job not only to make sure that I stay awake, but to help open other people's eyes as well.”

 12 Maria by David Santiano, Shanghai, China

"McD makes me happy. I never turn down a happy meal."

 13  Rae by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China
“My curves empower me. Growing up I hated my body. I measured my self worth by the size of my jeans, the numbers on the scale or the ever growing stretch marks on my thighs. Society told me that a fat girl's body should always be considered a “work in progress". Because of this, all my life I’ve tried to make myself small and quiet and take up as little space as possible. It took me until college to get rid of that mentality. Now, from time to time, I tell myself, "damn, I look good."”
 14 Anna by Vrinda Rayam, Chennai, India

"Books with strong female leads are empowering. Books, just as they are, are empowering. The opportunity to read and dream empowers me too. And let's not forget Princess Leia, the strongest, most intelligent, powerful, passionate, kind and caring woman in the fictional world."

 15 Hongxia by Nicole Chan, Shanghai, China
“To my surprise, my latest source of empowerment comes from water - I mean, open and wild water. Having grown up by a pristine river, the Sand River, I however had a deep fear of open and wild water for all those years. Only recently, by watching YouTube tutorial before bedtime and practicing early next morning in the pool, I managed to learn to swim. I feel a great sense of renewal and freedom like never before. My dream is to explore the world under water with my own eyes someday, after spending my life on land for well over half a century."
 16 Stephanie by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China
“Sports empower me. I discovered volleyball my sophomore year of high school, back when I hadn't yet found my own voice. Women are taught to be submissive and quiet, to sometimes make noise but not too much. My first varsity coach in high school challenged that, interrupting practice because she couldn't believe how timid we were all. Volleyball gave me a voice. It taught me that being aggressive wasn't an option but a necessity. I am valid and I belong here just as much as the person next to me, and I should never be afraid to show that.”
 17 Siraj by Vrinda Rayam, Chennai, India

"My husband passed away 13 years ago and I have been the sole provider of our family since then. To see my children successful fills me with pride. I am empowered in knowing that I was able to get them the right kind of education. All this came with sacrifices and working multiple jobs but it was worth it."

 18 Roxanne by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China
“Do you know why shoes are the most important piece of clothing? Because shoes take you on the journey and with every pair, you promise yourself more adventures to come. Shoes tell my stories, shoes empower me.”
 19  Tara by Cindy Hu, NYC, USA

“Practicing yoga empowers me because it allows me to push the limits of my body and mind. By fatiguing my body, I can clear my mind and anxieties.”

20 Dana by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China

“My mother's jewelry empowers me. It reminds me that I'll always have family as a support system no matter where I go. But more importantly, it reminds me that I'll always be connected to generations of strong women who smash expectations and can and have achieved anything they put their mind to.”