Al-banaat, “the girls” - this is the title photographer Emilienne Malfatto has given her sensitive portrait of two sisters growing up in a rural region in Southern Iraq. The daily life of Fatma and Tiktum, captured in delicate images, looks as unspectacular as the title of Malfatto’s photo series sounds. For two years, the photographer covered the life of the two girls who are now seven and nine years old. For Malfatto, however, these images are already a memory which foreshadows the loss of innocence.

She has spent many years in Iraq, speaks Arabic and knows about the efforts made by conservative forces to lower the legal marriage age to nine. In one or two years, the photographer writes, the older of the two sisters, Fatma, will have to cover up and “behave”. In this photo, taken on the banks of the river Euphrates, Fatma rehearses this during her first Ramadan; to go swimming like the boys is deemed inappropriate for her.

Curriculum Vitae: Emilienne Malfatto, France (Freelance Photographer)

Portrait: Emilienne Malfatto

© Emilienne Malfatto

Emilienne Malfatto, born in 1989, studied Political Science in France as well as Social Sciences and Photography in Colombia. She then worked for “Agence France Presse” and became a freelance photographer in 2015. She lives and works in Iraq and Europe.

She prefers to work on long-term projects where she can get intimate insights into the life of people: “behind the walls and doors”, as she calls it, “and behind the veils”. Malfatto’s photo series have been featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Le Monde and Figaro.


More information on the competition and the UNICEF Photo of the Year 2019 reportages.

Read more


Renowned photographers from all over the world take part in the contest. An independent jury decides upon the winner.

Learn more