Any Girl : Photography exhibition explores stories of Kenyan girls living in poverty

Any Girl : Photography exhibition explores stories of Kenyan girls living in poverty

A powerful photography exhibition, Any Girl, commissioned by Compassion UK, will run at G11@oxo on London’s Southbank from 12-16th October 2016 featuring work by photographers Jeremy Tan and Ella Dickinson.


In June this year, photographers Jeremy Tan and Ella Dickinson travelled to Kenya to meet girls aged between 10-16 years old. The project began as an exploration into the self-esteem and self-image of girls living in the vulnerability of poverty and evolved into “Any Girl”.

Despite increasing development and rapid urbanisation in Kenya, almost half of secondary school-age girls are still not enrolled in secondary education. It is estimated that 25% of these girls are married before their 18th birthday.

The ten girls who are part of the exhibition are residents of the Mathare and Gatina slum communities in Nairobi and rural Mashuru, which sits 130 kilometres south-east of Nairobi in Kenya’s rift valley. The various effects of urban and rural poverty are a daily reality for these girls;  long walks to fetch water, the pressure of Female Genital Mutilation, early marriage and the threat of sexual violence.

“In one sense, these girls are just like any other girls, anywhere in the world. They have best friends, teachers to please, homework to do and chores around the house. In another sense, there is something extraordinary about each one of these girls. They display an astounding resilience, strength and courage in the face of pressure from their communities and circumstances,” reflects 26-year-old Ella. 

“We wanted the girls to choose their poses and have some direction over the images. We asked where they would like to be photographed and we wanted their portraits to reveal something of their characters,” explains Australian-born photographer Jeremy Tan.

Esther is one of the girls from Mathare slum, she loves to express her creativity through sewing. As she talks about beauty, she sounds like many Western teens; “It is important for girls to feel beautiful. If someone tells you that you are ugly you can tell them you are beautiful – only if you know in your heart that you’re beautiful,” her confidence comes from an understanding that is not so common in Western culture; “True beauty comes from education.”

Francis Mbore, Director of a Compassion project in Mathare Valley, Nairobi explains; “There is actually a very big difference between girls in the project and the girls who are not…they have a high self-esteem because they are getting an education. They have been able to discover the potential inside them, despite what is outside the Compassion project walls and all around them.”


 Notes for Editors

Any Girl is free entry and will be on display at G11@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, London SE1 9PH from 12-16 October 2016 from 11am-6pm.

If you would like further information visit or please contact Ella Dickinson on 07840 203332 or email


Compassion UK

Words by Compassion UK


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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.