The International Rescue Committee, in partnership with Gagosian, presents Protecting Milestones: Portraits of Girls in Conflict, an exhibition of photography that looks at women and girls impacted by conflict, the world over. The powerful series of portraits will be on display at the Gagosian Shop in Burlington Arcade, London from May 3rd until May 7th. 

Five girls standing together
Fifteen-year-old Ampiya, pictured here with her friends Asha, Hibo, Shamsa and Nurta, is from Somalia but currently living as a refugee in Helowyn camp in southern Ethiopia. She has been part of the IRC’s Girl Shine programme for four months.
Photo: Martha Tadesse/IRC

​In countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen and now Ukraine, living in conflict impacted areas means that they struggle to access the food and medical care they need to reach key milestones – like their first steps and first day of school. This is a key hurdle for them to become empowered women. For children living in countries facing some of the worst crises in the world, those precious moments are put at risk because they don’t have access to one of life’s basic necessities: nutritious food.

This exhibition also launches the IRC Protecting Milestones campaign, which will run until August, in which the UK government will match donations to fund a new programme to treat malnutrition in Nigeria, one of the key  barriers for girls living in conflict to become empowered women. 

IRC’s UK Executive Director Laura Kyrke-Smith said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Gagosian on this important photo exhibition, raising awareness around the struggles that girls living in conflict areas have to face, one of them being malnutrition. 

"Unfortunately, it is all too common for families in conflict zones to struggle to access the food and medical care they need. As 50 million children worldwide suffer from acute malnutrition every year, we want to help girls living in conflict areas to grow and reach their full potential.”

All photos were taken in programmes run by the IRC, in conflict affected areas. 

One of the women in these photos is Najwan, a mother of three boys and two girls between the ages of five months and six years old.

Najwan’s family has been forced to flee from their home four times since the start of the conflict in Syria. They’ve settled in a camp for displaced people, where initially they found the living conditions harsh. Najwan dreams of raising her children back in their home village and she wants her daughter Sarra to go to school and become a teacher. 

Najwan said: “We were living in our home safely and comfortably, enjoying services like running water and electricity and we had a good quality of life. It is very harsh now to be displaced and living in a refugee camp. There is no comparison between the house and the tent.”

Talking about the health workers who helped her, as part of an IRC programme, she said:

“They really helped me and now my daughter’s health is very good. The situation was very difficult. My daughter had severe malnutrition and I was really depressed because of that. She was nine months old when she was in a dangerous condition. She started to vanish, I felt like she wasn’t a baby anymore, she was so sick, but thankfully now she is fine, she is eating, walking and playing. ”

Stefan Ratibor, Director, Gagosian said: “Visual art has the unique ability to convey the lived experience and develop empathy in the viewer. And so I hope this presentation leads to a greater appreciation of the IRC’s vital programmes and encourages donations. By supporting the IRC and providing a space for these inspiring photographs to be seen, Gagosian aims to support the millions of young women and children suffering under conflict worldwide. We need to act now and do what we can to address these issues.”

- ENDS - 

Notes to the editors:

For every £1 donated to our Protecting Milestones appeal between 3 May and 3 August 2022, the UK government will contribute £1 of UK aid to fund a new programme to treat malnutrition in Nigeria, up to £2 million. A generous IRC donor will also match the original donation, meaning your gift will go three times as far.

Your support, and the matching funds provided by the UK government, is vital to funding the IRC’s life-changing programmes around the world. The funds provided by the UK government will go to a new programme to treat malnutrition in northeast Nigeria. 

It is the compassion and generosity of our donors that make our work possible. Together, we can help children and families in crisis access urgently-needed health care, education, protection services and more. We can ensure the needs of women and children — who are disproportionately impacted by crisis and conflict — are met. We can help children living through conflict recover and reach their full potential. And we can empower people around the world to advocate for their rights and make their voices heard.