Photojournalism - NOMINEE: Lena Mucha
Women to the frontline: Female cadets challenging stereotypes in Armenia and Karabakh
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Since the frozen war between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted again in April 2016, more and more young girls and women are joining the army to defend their country. But in Armenia and Karabakh, societies that often confine them to traditional gender roles, its only the second year that they are allowed to join the military and become combatants.
Since 2014, twenty-three female recruits were admitted into the Military Academy in Armenias capital Yerevan. One year later they were joined by eleven 14 and 15 year-old girls at a military high school in Stepanakert, the capital of the self-proclaimed region Nagorny Karabakh that split from Azerbaijan in the 1990s.
The young women are a first in conservative Armenia, where their peers are expected to stay at home and rear children. But faced with a declining population, as Armenians leave their country to seek better economic opportunities abroad and parents opt to have fewer children, the government has decided to admit women into the army.
Despite objections against the girls active role in the military, these female cadets shrug off the criticisms. They are sure that one day they will serve on the frontline between Armenia and Azerbaijan just like their male peers.
Lena Mucha (b. 1983, Germany), is a freelance photographer based in Berlin.
In 2011 she graduated with a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology and Political Sciences from the University of Cologne, Germany.
Lena had lived several years in Latinamerica and Spain, working on research projects about gender violence and civil resistance and covering assignments for NGOs (Doctors without Borders, Peace Brigades International).
Lena has been awarded with different international prices as the Photo Annual Awards 2015 and selected as finalist at the Athens Photo Festival 2015 and the Moscow International Photography Award. Recently she was nominated for the Unicef Photo of the Year Award and won the Reporters in the Field Scholarship as well as a scholarship for Magnum photographer Patrick Zachmanns workshop in Poland and David Alan Harveys workshop in New York in 2016.
Lenas work has been exhibited and published internationally (El Pais, Nido Stern, 6mois, Lensculture, BURN Magazine, VICE Colombia, Huffington Post, Private Portfolio Review and emerge - german magazine for young photojournalism amongst others).