2008 — professional winner
Stephanie Sinclair is a VII Network contributing photographer since January, 2008, based in Beirut, Lebanon. From July, 2003 to December, 2007, she worked for Corbis in Iraq and Lebanon. From 1998 to 2003, she was a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune.
She graduated from the University of Florida in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communications with an outside concentration in Fine Art Photography. In the summer of 1993 she studied French at the University of Paris - La Sorbonne. During her time in school, she had internships at the Miami Herald, Arizona Republic, St. Petersburg Times, and the Detroit Free-Press.
Since 1999 she has been the publisher of Photobetty.com, the award-winning online publication for women in photography.
Some awards include:
2007 UNICEF Photo of the Year
2007 World Press Photo Third Place for coverage of the 2006 war in Lebanon
2006 Selected for World Press Photo’s 13th Joop Swart Masterclass
2004 Fifty Crows International Fund for Documentary Photography's Central Asia and Caucasus Grant
2003 World Press Photo First Place Contemporary Issues Single for a story on self-immolation in Afghanistan
2001 Pulitzer Prize for “Gateway to Gridlock,” awarded to Chicago Tribune staff for a series on the American air travel system. One of Stephanie’s photographs was the lead image in the second day of the three part series.
"Peace is not merely an absence of war, but the nurture of human life." - Jane Addams, 1931 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
I met 15-year-old Marzia as she lay in a corner of the burn ward at Herat Public Hospital in western Afghanistan. Five weeks beforehand, the teenager plugged in the television that her husband had recently bought for her, and it short-circuited. Terrified at the prospect of her husband's wrath, Marzia set herself on fire.
The young girl had never been to school and was sold into marriage at age 8.
After meeting many young girls in Herat's burn ward like Marzia - married off to strangers often before the age of puberty - I decided to take a serious look into the issue of early marriage. What I found were mere kids being forced into adult roles physically, mentally and sexually.
And this practice is by no means limited to Afghanistan. The UN Population Fund, which tracks global reproductive patterns, has noted a significant early marriage problem in at least 49 countries worldwide.
I followed this issue of early marriage and its consequences to Ethiopia and Nepal, where I witnessed communities struggling from within to put an end to these harmful, traditional practices. Though each culture is distinct in its approach to this issue, these early unions, no matter the geography, often have catastrophic results: Young brides discontinue their educations. Youth and inexperience leave them vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their spouses. Early pregnancies endanger their health. If they try to leave the marriage, they often fall victim to trafficking, prostitution and AIDS.
Statistics show that serious physical abuse is common among young brides, as they are simply too young to know how to behave properly as wives. They thus face the wrath of their husbands and in-laws, living in a culture of fear within their homes. Last year I met 15-year-old Jamila in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Already a mother of two, she was stabbed several times by her husband after leaving to see her mother without permission. She was later forced to return to his home. He was never prosecuted.
The experience of pregnancy can also be traumatizing for a girl who is still a child herself. She is more likely to have obstructed labor as her small body may be compromised during childbirth. Prolonged obstructed labor can then lead to fistula, a debilitating condition where the girl can no longer control her urine and bowel movements. In Ethiopia, Yekaba, 15, was in labor for three days before her family was able to get her to a hospital. She later developed fistula and was shunned by her neighbors who believed her cursed by God.
Child brides have double the pregnancy death rate of women in their 20s. The Afghan public health minister has said that 50 to 70 mothers die every day from birth complications, what he calls "a silent tsunami" for Afghanistan.
There are currently two bills before the U.S. Congress on the issue of child marriage. I plan to seize this opportunity by revisiting some countries and exploring the differing cultural and religious contexts and the effects they have on the issue of child marriage.
For instance, in some rural parts of Nepal, women are forced to give birth in the fields alone, as elders believe women are unclean during childbirth. One woman told me how she struggled for days to return to her village with her baby - who was breach - hanging out of her feet-first the entire way. Miraculously, the baby survived. The woman, now in her 30s, was married as a young teen. I plan to return to Nepal and document a young bride as she deals with specific traditional practices like this, while also facing the more common challenges of early marriage.
My goal is to create a compassionate portrait of young girls worldwide who are being forced into early adulthood. I want people to hear their haunting stories in their own small voices, like when 16-year-old Mejgon of Herat, Afghanistan, described losing her virginity after being sold by her father to a 60-year-old man for two boxes of heroin.
"I don't know what the meaning of love is ... In my whole life, I have never felt it," Mejgon