Today, 1 December, is World AIDS Day — and this is the new face of HIV/AIDS in Asia.
Well, at least one of 50 faces that my friend Shahidul Alam captured during this year for a UNAIDS-published book titled ‘Portraits of Commitment: Why people become leaders in the AIDS response’.
It profiles men and women who are confronting HIV/AIDS in their lives, professions, work places and families in a variety of ways, each of them remarkable and courageous.
In August 2007, Shahidul held an exhibition in Colombo that featured the South Asians who were photographed for the book. Adorning the cover of the exhibition brochure was this 17-year-old Bangladeshi girl, Sabina Yeasmin Putul.
And this is what Karen Yap Lih Huey of Inter Press Service/TerraViva wrote about her and the exhibition:
Sabina Yeasmin Putul has a silent, determined look with her left fist clenched tight in front of her face – a vision of strength, grace, and resilience all in one.
The 17-year-old Bangladeshi has a lot going for her. Mature beyond her age, she had a good understanding of what she has been through, as a daughter of a sex worker, and of how society sees and judges her. And she probably doesn’t know this – that her struggles inspired respected Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist Shahidul Alam.
“The way she tackles issues regarding her mother and the people around her is powerful. Of course, among other things, she did martial arts and I thought rather than showing child of a sex worker, I photographed her as this powerful woman who came across with powerful ideas,” said Alam, managing director and founder of the Dhaka-based Drik Photo Library.
Posters of her in a martial arts pose was the face for Shahidul’s photography exhibition, a project produced by a team from Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography which is the education wing of the award-winning agency Drik.