Lee Karen Stow
Lee Karen Stow was born in 1966 in the United Kingdom. She has worked as a journalist for 20 years on assignments in more than 50 countries. Her work has appeared in British newspapers The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Express on Sunday and magazines such as CNN Traveller, Geographical and County Living. She has authored and co-authored and photographed several adventure travel books. As a documentary photographer, she is interested in exploring the lives of women who live in cities and countries connected in some way with her birthplace, Kingston upon Hull, including Freetown in Sierra Leone, Szczecin in Poland and Reykjavik in Iceland.
Sierra Leone, West Africa, is ranked by the United Nations as one of the poorest countries on Earth, and the toughest place for a child to be born into.
Though peace has returned to a country crushed by a brutal civil war from 1991 to 2002, during which men, women and children were murdered, raped, horrifically maimed and left homeless, the country remains shattered and broken, with abject poverty and high unemployment.
Positive steps are being taken to rebuild homes and lives, and women are claiming their rights more than ever. Yet women still face hardship and suffer immense despair. Women do not have equal access to education, economic opportunities, health facilities or social freedoms. Too many die in childbirth. Violence against women, especially wife beating is common. Female genital mutilation is undergone by babies and teenagers. Displaced girls resort to prostitution for income. Some women carry the trauma of being raped and used as sexual slaves during the war. HIV and Aids continue to spread rapidly.
So I returned, again and again, to live with the women in their homes, eat the meals they so lovingly cooked, and washed in water they boiled on their outside coal pots. With so little, they gave me hospitality, safety, friendship, their vibrant Krio tongue, their fears, their tears and their dreams. These photographs were taken with the full consent and cooperation of the women; they are the photographs they wanted me to take and want you to see.