HUFFINGTON POST

UNICEF Child Photographers Document Children's Rights In Niger (VIDEO)

06/21/2011 08:26 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2011

In Niger, a group of children assumed roles as advocacy journalists last week, taking to the streets armed with digital cameras and the objective of telling a critical narrative.

Twenty Nigerien youth, eight to 16 years old, attended a UNICEF workshop led by photographer Giacomo Pirozzi, who provided them with the skills to create photo essays depicting "children's vulnerabilities."

The young photojournalists focused on the developing country's street kids, as about 43 percent of Nigerien children work as beggars, street vendors or domestic servants, UNICEF reports.

Many of the young workshop participants come from families who live on less than $1.25 a day and have never touched a camera. Rachida Aboukar, 16, told UNICEF the experience was eye-opening in more ways than one.

"I was not expecting to see what I saw today. I was very saddened by the sight of these children sleeping in the streets, and I think it is not fair that a child should sleep on the streets when they have parents."

The young photojournalists told the story of malnutrition, hygiene issues and young marriage. About 61 percent of girls 15-19 years old are married to older men with 26 percent engaging in sexual intercourse by 15, according to UNICEF.

Romaric Onadja, 17, says the experience put things into perspective for him:

"I used to complain about my life, but when I became acquainted with some of the living conditions of children on the streets of Niamey, I feel very rich. You find six to eight people living in the same mud house. That is what really affected me the most."

The photos were put on exhibit as part of last week's Day of the African Child 2011.

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