Photovoice: A tool for Health Committees to explore where community needs are located

Social determinants play a critical role in the health of a local community.  Residents know that pollution, sewage overflows, high rates of crime and lack of recreational facilities for young people contribute to a negative bill of community health.

Health Committees serve as the link between communities and health services. This Photovoice project in South Africa began in 2016, after the Training and Research Support Centre (TARSC) within the Regional Network for Equity in Health (EQUINET) initiated a train-the-trainer programme in Harare.  Trainers from Eastern and Southern Africa trained their local health committee members in the use of photography to represent community voice, specific to social determinants of health.

Twelve health committee members have used Photovoice to highlight the social conditions within the townships of KwaZakhele, KwaNdokwenza and Soweto-on-Sea.  Their purpose in this ongoing Photovoice study is to reflect community needs through their photos, to influence local communities, the health services, local ward councilors and the local government authority, and to strengthen their health committees.

Funded by Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa; School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, TARSC and EQUINET

Submitted by:
Therese Boulle


The kids in our townships are so resourceful. They have very few play grounds. Here they are using the road verges. With old, broken mattresses they leap, fly and tumble through the air. We need more play grounds!

Photographer: Mfundo Chimarillo

We walk past the trash in our streets, without a second glance

We have become so used to pollution on our streets. A few years ago, there was limited refuse collection, but now it is better. Only now we have not changed and still dump our rubbish alongside the road. Sadly we often ask our children to take out our rubbish and dump it.

Photographer: Ntombekhaya Dingaan

Poking around in the dirt alongside the road

Our young children are learning that playing in the puddles of sludge, dirt and pollution is normal. Instead of playing in designated safe playgrounds, this young child learns that mucking around in the trash on a roadside is normal. We need safe spaces for our children.

Photographer: Nozuko Mantila

Our shacks, our homes. Days are safe but at night the streets turn dangerous

Even though they get too hot in summer and too cold in winter, these shacks are our homes. You can see good comradery on our streets during the day. At night however, you don’t go walking. It becomes dangerous because criminals rule. We want to create safe spaces.

Photographer: Mfundo Chimarillo

Going home, down sh**t street

Soweto-on-Sea is close to sea-level. The sewerage system and storm water system most often don’t hold. Drains are regularly blocked. Children learn to skirt the sewage when it spills down the street.
Photographer: Nozuko Seti