"I decided to pursue an education so that I do not need to rely on men," writes Aisha, a 33-year-old Yemeni teacher. This is written accompanying a photograph of her, as part of Kuwaiti-born Palestinian photographer Laura Boushnak's ongoing series titled I Read, I Write, which for the better part of a decade has captured the experiences of girls and women with education across the Middle East. The series focuses on the obstacles women in the MENA region often face in accessing education, which range from cultural restraints to restriction of movement to simply a lack of money, and highlights women who have pursued it despite the myriad barriers facing them. And this ranges wildly from Egyptian women in their late fifties learning to read for the first time, to women in their twenties in Gaza teaching themselves music.
Born to third generation Palestinian refugee parents in Kuwait in 1976, Boushnak studied sociology at the Lebanese University in Beirut, before delving into photojournalism, covering hard news across the region, including the Iraq war. About a decade ago, the now Sarajevo-based artist shifted to more personal, long-term projects such as I Read, I Write, which was recently crystallised into a book of the same name.
The project has taken her around a flurry of Arab nations including Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Tunisia, and is an intimate look at the barriers to and the impact of education for women across the Arab world. Boushnaq often asks her subjects a question related to their experience with education - directly involving them with the creative process - which she pairs with their image, to give further, more personal insight as to their situation.
Boushnaq is also a co-founder of the Rawiya collective, which brings together the works of female photographers from the Middle East.
You can check out more of Boushnaq's work on Instagram here.