Sisterhood in Far-Flung Places
On a dry, hot afternoon I found myself walking through the streets of downtown Yangon, unwinding after a particularly emotional interview with a woman who had given herself an abortion just three months before, her face grave and unmoving as she told me her story.
After the interview, I knew I needed to collect my thoughts so I went to a bookstore, looking for something to occupy my mind. Moving through the shelves, picking up anything I could find in English, I came across a magazine: Frontier Myanmar. Upon opening its pages I was greeted with two-page spreads of color photos, well-designed infographics and news. Picture after picture pulled me in, almost all of them having the same credit line: Ann Wang.
Fast-forward four months. I’m back in Myanmar, now working for Frontier Myanmar as one of their reporters and photographers. I spend my week researching, interviewing and photographing stories in which I find purpose and meaning. My editors trust yet challenge me. I get paid to create photo essays. Ann Wang, whose photographs drew me in to this publication in the first place, sits in the newsroom a desk away from me– all in a country where journalists are still very much threatened by the government and private interest groups.
Ann has become much more than my coworker, she’s become my friend. In the few weeks I’ve been back I’ve found someone I can talk to about not only professional endeavors, but my life in general. Camera gear, relationship issues, story sources, where to get the best noodles in town, sexism in the industry… nothing is off limits. I implore her to apply for grants and scholarships; she gently (and perhaps unknowingly) pushes me to work harder and think broader. We are different in culture, experience and age, yet bound by a thread of passion and dedication to our chosen field. I’ve come to realize that hard work has brought us both to the same newsroom, but it is luck that has made us friends.
In an age where only 15% of news photographers are women, these female-to-female relationships are invaluable. Whether it be loaning each other properly-fitting flak jackets or just being available to talk, it’s important that we, as women, continue to support each other on and off the field. Be vocal about your fellow women’s achievements and embrace their triumphs with them. Stand by them in the newsroom, and, of course, always be sure to tell them where they can get the best noodles in town.
Victoria Milko is an independent multimedia journalist based in Washington, D.C. In the past year her passion for storytelling has taken her from the back rooms of underground sex clubs our of nation’s capital to illegal abortion sites in Myanmar. Between assignments Victoria is working towards earning her Master’s degree in Multiplatform Journalism from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She is a recipient of the Emerging Voices Scholarship through AWMF and the Ford Foundation.