Some of them were as young as 13 when they were kidnapped by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. They were brainwashed. They should give up any desire to hope for schooling as a girl. They were freed during an operation by the Nigerian military. Or were able to flee. Now they are back at school. Back where they are allowed to learn and flourish. Where they are allowed to read, write and calculate. Where images are not prohibited. Where a globe shows what the world looks like. Where they can learn English, biology and history. 

Now they get to look at comics and use pencils again. They are allowed to own exercise books again. And they finally get to be curious young people again. Everything that an extremist ideology regards as Western and depraved - and certainly not in line with the severely restricted rights of a woman who is not supposed to think independently. 

Some of them are 15 years old, like Fanti, who wants to be a nurse one day. Or 16 or 17. Photographer Emeke Obanor provided them with a safe space by not showing their faces. He knows about their fear and lost ability to trust, despite their bravery. 

Photographer: Emeke Obanor, Nigeria 

Portrait: Emeke Obanor

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Emeke Obanor, born in 1972, taught himself photography. He became well known for his creative and artistic abilities, with a talent for art and aesthetics. His skills brought him recognition far beyond the borders of his country. 

He has won various awards at the international level, including the Global Peace Photography Award in Austria. Although his visualizations are minimalistic and innovative in their beauty, Obanor sees himself as an activist. He strongly feels it is his “obligation” to make his photographs testimonies of a “compassion for the oppressed”.


More information on the competition and the UNICEF Photo of the Year 2021 reportages.

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

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