Inspired by her love for photography and frustrated with the lacking creativity dominant in the Egyptian media regarding visual content, Asmaa set out to become the remarkable photographer and filmmaker she is today.
Her winning picture story, “Bread: The food that sparks revolutions”, was published as part of The Niles 14, The Food and Food Security Issue in 2019.
“I wanted to work on this story because bread in Egypt is the most important thing in peoples’ everyday lives,” says Asmaa. The story of bread in Egypt dates back to the distant past.
“Since ancient times, Egyptians painted wheat and bread on the walls of their temples. It’s part of our culture as bread is the main food item for people from different walks of life,” she adds.
And no leader should take the Egyptians’ connection to bread too lightly. In 1977 hundreds of thousands of poor people protested against the rising prices of bread. “Even the word bread means life and making a living for us,” explains Asmaa.
“Journalism and media are an ancient concept since drums were used to call for war. It is people’s right to have information that enlightens them and keeps them up to date about developments and issues of their concern”, says Asmaa.
She believes that delivering stories through photography removes all language and cultural barriers. “The universal power of the picture is that it can change the way people see things or make them notice new angles, besides preserving the story for all times.”
Asmaa says that social media has helped many photojournalists showcase their work and reach more people than they used to when pictures were only printed in newspapers and books.
Reaching more people “has also helped in strengthening the impact of the pictures”, says Asmaa.
Female journalists need more support from both institutions and society, says Asmaa. “They need to be empowered”, considering that until recently, women in Egypt who put their photos on social media and female photography, in general, was frowned upon.
She thinks that the various challenges and obstacles facing female journalists often drive them to quit. And with fewer women in the media sector in general, there are only very few women who make it to the top and into decision making positions.
To change that, says Asmaa, several things can be done, such as “highlighting success stories of female photographers and journalists, equipping them with skills to practice their job feeling more secure and general support and encouragement”.
“Talented female journalists need to be supported. But they also need to work them- selves on their professional development, keeping up with the ever-changing world of photography: work on your skills, read more and build your capacity.”
“The training and workshops I attend – like those held by the Nile Basin Initiative – brings people from all over the Nile Basin region together and allows us to work on Nile stories and visual content together. These types of events need to be continued and pushed, and cooperation should be further promoted,” says Asmaa.
Cooperation is needed especially now, adds Asmaa, given all the controversy and disagreement on various transboundary issues such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). This requires all journalists from across the Nile Basin countries to raise awareness on possible solutions and produce non-biased stories.
“Media in each country of the Nile Basin is mainly directed towards politicising the issues of the Nile, and instead of promoting collaboration, it widens the gap between the nations. That’s why we need more independent projects, outside governmental control, that support independent media to produce reason- able and credible reports.“
“There has to be more support for independent journalists who report the truth rather than just spreading the views of their respective government,” Asmaa adds.