CULTURE & ARTS
10/08/2015 10:04 am ET Updated Oct 12, 2015

A Photographer Traveled The World Snapping Portraits Of Women And Girls 'Living On The Edge'

"This is not a book about women and girls as victims."
2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).

On the cover of Mark Tuschman's photography book, Faces of Courage, a young girl of 13 stares boldly at the viewer. Her name is Kala and she lives in the rural Pali district of Rajasthan, India. Kala has been married since she was three months old; she's lived with her parents throughout childhood but now, as a teenager, she's preparing to move in with her husband. 

A quick glance at her portrait might prompt a viewer to question the injustice ingrained in a tradition that pushes a girl of Kala's age to become a wife. Nonetheless, Kala faces the camera with quiet dignity and incredible strength, possessing a mature gaze that belies her youth.

UNICEF estimates that <a href="http://www.unicef.org/education/bege_70640.html" target="_blank">one-third of girls in the dev
2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
UNICEF estimates that one-third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 and give birth before the age of 20, while the UN notes that more than 1.3 billion across the world women lack personal access to a financial institution and two-thirds of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women.

Tuschman's book, based on a series called "Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge," illuminates the unfathomable struggles many women around the world are forced to endure every day. Forced marriage, domestic violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, limited access to education -- the compilation highlights the fact that too many mothers and girls around the world are denied basic control over their bodies and their minds.

The women in Faces of Courage live in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening conditions, for no other reason than they fact that they were born women in a particular location on planet Earth. Tuschman's images, however, take an ultimately optimistic tone, celebrating the immense bravery and resilient spirit of the countless individuals whose stories frequently go untold, rather than focusing on the root of gender inequality in various countries. The series echoes the words of American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: "It has been a woman's task throughout history to go on believing in life when there was almost no hope." 

2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).

Beyond the gripping portraits of powerful women, Tuschman's images also highlight the work and progress made by grassroots organizations like WomensTrust and the Bixby Center's Girl-Child Education initiative to empower women worldwide. Providing computers to young students, treating AIDS and HIV, supporting small women-led businesses, conducting surgery to repair life-threatening injuries during childbirth -- the list of efforts to liberate and educate women goes on and on.

As Jill Sheffield writes in the book's introduction: "This is not a book about women and girls as victims. Mark has combined sadness with hope, problem with solution, and tears with smiles. He has shown us strength and resolution. In doing so, he has hit upon the magic combination necessary for making progress. We cannot just look at the problem -- we have to inject hope and possibility into this reality. If we cannot, we would be unable to move forward. I look at the faces of young girls in this book, and I smile. I smile at their joy and their potential."

Together, Tuschman's unflinching photos make painfully clear just how much work still must be done on the road to shaping a world that is safe and equal for all its inhabitants. As American suffragist Alice Paul once said: "There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it."

  • Women waiting to see healthcare workers in a village outside of Kano, Nigeria.
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    Women waiting to see healthcare workers in a village outside of Kano, Nigeria.
  • In a clinic outside of Dacca, Bangladesh, a nurse attends a teenage mother's baby. The young mother, who is 15 years old, is
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    In a clinic outside of Dacca, Bangladesh, a nurse attends a teenage mother's baby. The young mother, who is 15 years old, is in the background, very detached from her newborn infant.
  • Seni, in the foreground, was trafficked from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, where she was held as an indentured servant, without
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books)
    Seni, in the foreground, was trafficked from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, where she was held as an indentured servant, without being able to communicate with her family, for three years. Seni has since been reunited with her husband and son, shown here in the background.
  • In Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, a traditional birth attendant counsels a mother about to give birth. There were approximate
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    In Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, a traditional birth attendant counsels a mother about to give birth. There were approximately 40 mothers outside, sitting on the ground, waiting to see her.
  • Nazia is 21 years old and has been married for two years. She shares her story at a support group for battered women organize
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    Nazia is 21 years old and has been married for two years. She shares her story at a support group for battered women organized by the NGO Action India, a grantee of the Global Fund for Women. Her husband'€™s family demanded a motorcycle as part of the dowry; then her husband demanded a car, which Nazia'€™s parents could not afford. One day when she was riding with her husband on the new motorcycle, he pushed her off. She was seven months pregnant at the time. After she survived the €œaccident, Nazia'€™s husband gave her some medicine that made her ill and sent her to a hospital where she delivered a stillborn child. Her husband left her afterward, and Nazia has been living with her mother. She wants a divorce and the return of her dowry.
  • Image of a mother and child in Luang Prabang, Laos.
    015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    Image of a mother and child in Luang Prabang, Laos.
  • Two young Maasai girls doing homework outside one of the mud huts in their villages.
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books)
    Two young Maasai girls doing homework outside one of the mud huts in their villages.
  • A woman confers with her doctor in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has just undergone a Norplant birth-control procedure, in which the
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    A woman confers with her doctor in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has just undergone a Norplant birth-control procedure, in which the medication has been implanted subdermally in her upper arm. The contraceptive is effective for six months.
  • A girl&nbsp;in Pokuase, Ghana, who is supported by scholarships provided by Womens Trust.
    015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books).
    A girl in Pokuase, Ghana, who is supported by scholarships provided by Womens Trust.
  • An hour outside of Kaduna, Nigeria, the Bixby Girl Child Education Project works to increase access to education for girls in
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books)
    An hour outside of Kaduna, Nigeria, the Bixby Girl Child Education Project works to increase access to education for girls in rural areas. When the instructor brought out a single laptop computer, which seemed out of place in the water-drenched mud hut, all of the girls jostled with each other to get a view of the image on the screen.
  • Nishi, a young woman from rural Rajasthan is pictured here with her mother, who supports and encourages her studies. The moth
    2015, Mark Tuschman from Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge (Val de Grace Books)
    Nishi, a young woman from rural Rajasthan is pictured here with her mother, who supports and encourages her studies. The mother, who had the chance to travel outside of her local community when she was younger, realized that her lack of education was a major limitation to her quality of life. (

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