Breaking Barriers 


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14 breast cancer survivors of the Indian sub-continent come forward and share their experiences through their portraits in Portraits in Pink Exhibition 

By- Nandini 

“This exhibition aims to take away the fear and stigma from the community, knowing that there are beautiful women out there who have had breast cancer and survived,” said Michael Camit, Project Lead, Portraits in Pink initiative. From 5-11 September 2016, the latest photo-exhibition, Portraits in Pink, featured moments from the lives of breast cancer survivors from the Indian and Sri Lankan communities. Photographers and volunteers came together on this exhibition to change attitudes of these two communities on breast cancer.

The recently concluded exhibition showcased a variety of print and digital images at the City of Parramatta Library to celebrate the Women’s Health Week as well as spark conversations about breast cancer in Indian and Sri Lankan communities.

“We wanted to break the ‘culture of silence’ about breast cancer by highlighting breast cancer survivors from the community,” said Michael Camit, Project Lead about the motivations for this art-based initiative.

Pink Tinged Plans for the Future

However, this is not the first time that the Pink Sari Project resorted to art to get the ball rolling. Volunteers from the Pink Sari Project have been attending community-based events to spread awareness. The project’s latest initiative is a songwriting competition to engage their audience. It has planned rural outreach programmes at Sikh temples in Woolgoolga and Griffith. There is a planned extension to the Portraits in Pink Exhibition, which will take place in Campbelltown in October. Then there are digital stories of breast cancer survivors, which will be published in five Indian languages on the Pink Sari Project Facebook Page; the first Hindi one is already released.

“We believe in incorporating the arts into the health promotion work, as it plays a central role in most South Asian communities,” explains Kevin Bathman, Exhibition Curator. “We want to talk to women specifically aged 50-74. Their families, individuals, and organizations that are in touch with them too are equally important for us,” he added.

Survivors Stand Tall and Strong

[Text Box]The exhibition has achieved a significant breakthrough as this is the very first time that cancer survivors have come ahead and spoken about their journeys openly and publicly. It is the first time that survivors from Indian/Sri Lankan backgrounds have come out in public in a photo exhibition. Both Camit and Bathman reveal that this would not have been possible without the support of community leaders and members.

“Initially,  we were told by the community that we will be lucky if we have one or even two women who are open to sharing their stories, and putting their faces in a very public campaign,” said Camit. “But we had an overwhelming response as 14 breast cancer survivors came forward and were willing to share their experiences and have their portraits taken,” he added.

Forces behind the Pink Sari Project

The Pink Sari Project initiative is an important community-based initiative. It is led by the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service (MHCS) in association with BreastScreen NSW and Refugee Health Service. The project is funded by Cancer Institute NSW and is working hard to improve levels of Breast Cancer awareness and promote early detection of the disease.

Early Detection – Arsenal for Survival

Research shows that at least 1 in 8 women suffers from breast cancer in her lifetime. Nine out of 10 breast cancer sufferers do not have a medical history in their families. Early detection through regular mammograms increases chances of survival. However, Indian and Sri Lankan women have the lowest participation rates in the BreastScreen NSW program.

As a result, the Pink Sari Project had a mammoth task – to increase mammogram rates in women aged 50-74 from Indian or Sri Lankan backgrounds. To achieve this, the Project combined research into those barriers that prohibit women from having mammograms done. The Project worked with local BreastScreen services to ensure that they provided culturally appropriate services, deployed relevant media and engaged the community offline and online.

“We are proud to say that the process of putting up the exhibition, deciding to come out and appearing in a public photo exhibition has had a very positive and empowering impact on the lives of the breast cancer survivors featured in Portraits in Pink Exhibition.” he adds.

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The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia


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