OVEREXPOSED – should images of children be used in charity fundraising?

Chance for Childhood is a relatively small charity with an income of just less the £1million. The first time I heard of the charity was when they recently launched their #OverExposed campaign which “seeks to reframe thinking and create better practices and policies around child-centred imagery and storytelling.” As part the campaign they have taken the decision to remove identifiable features of children from imagery and video footage, including removing children’s faces from all fundraising campaigns.

The campaign was launched at the House of Lords (I’m not sure how this was achieved?) and is also supported by David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.

David is no stranger to debates around charity imagery and accused Comic Relief of White Saviourism when they sent Strictly Come Dancing winner and journalist Stacey Dooley to Uganda to document some of their programming work. Like David, I applaud the decision by Chance for Childhood to remove images of children from their fundraising appeals, but can you solve ethical storytelling by simply removing children’s faces? I suppose it’s a start.

The narrator in the launch video, who is anonymised, asks 4 questions:

  1. What is a segmented, multi-channel donation campaign?
  2. Why is my picture on social media profiles that aren’t mine?
  3. Why is it ok for my image to be published all over the internet, when most parents would not allow it?
  4. Is that ok? Is that ethical? Is that fair?

I like the video, and a great deal of effort has been put into this campaign. The House of Lords launch, support from a prominent MP and the establishment of a resource hub which includes an introductory webinar and five videos:

  1. How do we centre children’s rights and well-being in our stories?
  2. What is informed consent and what are the challenges we face?
  3. Using positive strength-based language in our work
  4. Reducing the risks of telling stories online
  5. How does power impact the collection and usage of stories and images of children?

I confess I haven’t watched the five videos but I did watch the hour long webinar which is chaired by Chance for Childhood staff member Lucy who leads a discussion with Grace and Felicien from Rwanda, and Bokey from Kenya. It’s worth watching and I won’t go into too much detail here but I will just raise a few questions and comments. Firstly, Lucy says that they launched the campaign as “no one is having a public conversation”. This is a bit odd as the Resource Hub Introduction document references “three key guides” – the Dignified Storytelling Handbook, Putting the People in the Picture First: Ethical Guidelines for Collection and Use of Content and DOCHAS Code of Conduct on Images and Messages. Considering that the DOCHAS Code of Conduct was written in 2014, I would say this discussion has been going on some time! I don’t deny the #OverExposed campaign comes from a good place, but the focus seems very much like an overt piece of PR for Chance for Childhood.

For me, one of the strongest statements in the webinar is from Grace, who is a former refugee in Rwanda who says “they take pictures of our pain”. Another statement that resonated with me was from Bokey who is the founder of Glad’s House Kenya. Bokey says that there are two problems trying to stop organisations using images of children: locally people believe negative imagery gives them priority to funding to alleviate the situation and secondly, international donors want to see the situation to justify the needs to send funds. Bokey has also written a blog post “Real change only comes if INGO or International donors don’t ask for photos”. In the blog Bokey says:

The world is smaller now. You can easily lose control of the image you share, and it can be used somewhere else…That image will haunt them forever. Children will be defined for the rest of their lives by a moment in time.

On the whole I think this campaign (like the others before) is an important addition to the discussions around protecting the dignity of “distant others”. Removing children’s faces is a start, but more needs to be done to improve agency and ensuring that children know their rights when people ask to take their pictures. In the webinar Grace says

We no longer say giving a voice to the voiceless because we all know there are no voiceless, there are people who are given the support to speak up.

INGOs must think about how they will give that support for people to speak up!

One small last criticism of this campaign – if your policy is to remove identifiable features of children you really should go back and delete old photos from social media too – there are still lots there….

Day Three – Living Below the Line

I couldn’t face another day of porridge, so I decided to have a treat – Baked Beans on Toast. It tasted heavenly. I’ve started to savour my food a lot more than I usually do and absolutely nothing goes to waste – that’s for sure. Even though this was value beans on value bread with no margarine it really did feel like a treat.


For lunch I had another treat – Value Tomato Soup. Yummy. In all honestly, I am really enjoying my food a lot more. I’m taking my time to eat as opposed to eating at my desk and not even thinking about it while answering emails. As I said before, nothing is going to waste. My biggest treat was eating the crusts I cut off my daughters ham sandwich. It’s ok, I won’t cheat when it comes to the official challenge in April/May.

Even though I’ve had Vegetable Curry 3 days in a row it does still taste good. What would it taste like though if this was forever. Sarah is really missing her Latte’s in the morning. It’s almost a ritual for her. I’m weirdly missing my Extra Strong Mints. I’ve got into a strange habit of buying Extra Strong Mints every day. But at 65p a pack on campus, there’s no way I can afford these.

I didn’t have a headache today and I’m not as hungry as I was the previous two days. I have however lost 3 llbs in weight. I’m definitely starting to appreciate and value food more. Why oh why did I buy 2 packs of Laughing Cow Cheese for £2. Was it because they were on offer? 12.5p per triangle. Wow. Actually this is the same price as an egg – an unethical egg at that. If you want a free range egg that’s going to cost you 25p. A quarter of your budget.

Uh oh. I’m running out of lemon squash…

Day Two – Living below the line

The first mistake we made was to each so much the day before we started the challenge. We decided that we would go and have a large full English Breakfast at a new cafe that had been recommended to us. There were also some sheekh kebabs left in the fridge from our Valentine’s meal. Obviously they couldn’t go to waste!

So we started the day with a bowl of porridge and jam as recommended in the Live Below the Line Cookbook. I’ve never had porridge before and to me it was like eating school dinners at the age of 7 all over again. Sarah on the other hand loved hers. I was feeling very hungry, probably due to over eating the day before. Don’t make this mistake if you decide to take the challenge. To try and fill up my stomach I drank a lot of orange squash and hot lemon squash. Probably another mistake as I was rushing off to the toilet a lot more than usual.

Lunch came in the form of one triangle of Laughing Cow spread on two slices of cheap wholemeal bread. I enjoyed every bit haha.

That evening I made 5 days worth of vegetable curry.


It tasted fantastic. The ingredients we had bought didn’t make loads of curry but it was ample. However it was obvious that the 40p bag of rice would be plenty enough for the week to provide quite large portions for one meal a day each.

Both of us realised how much we eat the kids left overs. There were 3 fish fingers just starting at me, saying eat me. It certainly made me realise how much food we waste. I really wanted those fish fingers!

Today we more or less had the same 3 meals all over again. I could see very quickly how bland living below the line can be. I also had a headache all day, probably through lack of caffeine. At least my body had adjusted somewhat and I wasn’t feeling so hungry.