Women in conflict

January 28, 2013

Eleven Women Facing War is a compelling and intimate look into the lives of women affected by conflict. Nick Danziger first photographed these women from conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Colombia and the Balkans for an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) study in 2001. Ten years later, he set out to find them again to learn what had become of their lives.  

This exhibition shows both the immediate and lasting changes war can have on the lives of wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. Told in their own voices, their stories and photos are gripping. All have experienced loss and suffering. And all reveal remarkable strength and will as they try to survive. 

A series of vignettes available on YouTube introduce the women and their stories. They include:

Olja, heartbroken yet relieved to finally confirm the death of her missing husband. “I have a strong need to touch these clothes,” she says, holding photographs of the fabric scraps recovered from his grave. “In a way, it’s good that I found my husband. I think it’s a happiness of sorts. The hardest thing would be never to have found him.”

Mah-Bibi is a 10-year-old whose mother died and whose father disappeared when she was six. Forced to sell the family’s livestock and land, she now begs for food for herself and her younger brothers. “This morning I had no food for breakfast and I ate grass,” she says. “Soon there will be no grass left. It will dry up. What will we eat then? The sand?” 

Another young woman, Mariatu, describes the difficulties she has faced since attackers cut off her hands. “I really would like to get married, but I am afraid … the man will leave me for another woman because I will not be able to do a lot of things for my husband. You should be able to cook and take care of your husband.”

These stories, and the eight others presented in the exhibition, reveal the vulnerability and resilience of civilians in war zones, and how the consequences of war reverberate long after the fighting has ended.

Eleven Women Facing War will be presented at the Canadian War Museum fromFebruary 8 to April 21, 2013.