Photovoice: Pushing the boundaries of participatory research - Gerry Mshana

Why use photovoice as a research methodology? This Learning Lab presents experiences and findings from two studies in Tanzania, detailing successes and challenges of this approach.

The first study explored alcohol use among young people in two regions, Mwanza and Kilimanjaro. Inititally, photovoice participants were trained in the ethics and practicalities of photographic research and skills. Then they were given cameras for a week to document alcohol use among their peers. The photographs provided the basis for discussion in group sessions, with both the images and the discussions as data for researchers to analyse. Later, the young participants organised an exhibition to present their work to community members.

The second study explored intimate partner violence (IPV) in Mwanza city. Here, women were trained in photographic research and were given camera phones to capture images related to IPV in the community. Partcipants were later interviewed individually about the pictures they had taken.

The Learning Lab concludes with recommendations for using photovoice as a research method to explore ‘difficult’ topics in developing country contexts.

Dr Gerry Mshana is a senior researcher at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mwanza, Tanzania. A medical anthropologist for over 18 years, he has conducted research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and the socio-cultural aspects of HIV/AIDS, male circumcision and non-communicable diseases such as stroke, Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy.

His current research

  • uses innovative participatory research methods to explore the structural drivers of HIV among young people
  • investigates how macro factors such as advertisement, packaging and pricing influence alcohol use among young people
  • studies the interplay between social norms and gender based violence


Prevalence of intimate partner violence and abuse and associated factors among women enrolled into a cluster randomised trial in northwestern Tanzania

Photovoice: Using participatory photography in research

Download a pdf of the presentation here.

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