There is a Yemeni saying that goes: A girl only leaves her house twice – when she marries and when she dies. To be born as a girl in Yemen means having a slim chance of visiting a public school and learning how to read and write. According to UNICEF, one in three Yemeni girls is married before turning 18.

Click on a picture to enlarge.

Tribal traditions are strong in Yemen – as is the belief that it’s easier to turn a young bride into an obedient wife. Such opinions are also the result of the widespread poverty that is characteristic of Yemeni society, particularly in rural areas. 42 % of the population live below the poverty line, 18 % in total poverty. As a result, girls have to overcome many obstacles on their way to education and a self-determined life.

The project of Palestinian photographer Laura Boushnak documents the first little taste of freedom for young Yemeni schoolgirls. 

Curriculum Vitae: Laura Boushnak (Rawiya Collective)

UNICEF-Photo of the Year Laura Boushnak

Laura Boushnak is a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian photographer. Her work ranges from conflict photography to pictorial storytelling. After completing a BA in sociology at the Lebanese University, Boushnak began her photography career covering news for the Associated Press in Lebanon. She later worked as a photo editor and photographer for Agence France-Presse (AFP) at its Middle East hub in Cyprus and its headquarters in Paris.

Her nine-year wire service experience included covering hard news in conflicts such as the war in Iraq and the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Her photographs have been published in the New York Times, The Guardian, The National Geographic, Le Monde and many more.

Since 2008 Laura has been working as a freelance photographer, devoting more time to her long-term projects, with a special focus on Arab women and education. Her photos have been exhibited at museums and galleries in New York, Mumbai, Thessaloniki, Beijing, Cairo, Noorderlecht, Dubai, Aleppo, Manama, Nicosia, Derby, Beirut, Oslo and Sarajevo.
In 2013 she was the overall winner of the Terry O’neil Photography award in the UK. She also received the Peace Media Award from the Peace x Peace organization in Washington, DC in 2011.

Her work “I Read I Write: Egypt- Illiteracy” series was acquired by the British Museum in 2012.
Boushnak co-founded RAWIYA collective, which brings together the work and experience of female photographers from the Middle East. She is represented by Sana Gallery in Singapore.


More information on the competition and the UNICEF-Photo of the Year 2013 reportages.

Read more

WINNERS 2000-2012

Please find all the award winners of the previous years and their photo series at