Panje In Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, daily life centers around the sea, yet the vast majority of Zanziba girls never learn to swim. An estimated 98% of the population is Muslim. Conservative Islamic culture and the absence of modest swimwear have discouraged girls from swimming. Until the Panje Project, that is.
“Panje” is a Swahili word that translates roughly to “big fish.” For the past few years, the Panje Project has made it possible for local women and girls to get into the water, not only teaching them swimming skills but aquatic safety and drowning prevention techniques. The group has empowered its students to teach others, creating a sustainable cycle. And has also provided them with burkinis, full-length swimsuits, so they can get into the water without compromising their cultural and religious beliefs
Photographer Anna Boyiazis was captivated by this initiative for a number of reasons. Growing up, her love of the water earned her the nickname “psaroukla,” a Greek word meaning none other than “big fish.” But it wasn’t only the coincidence of this nomenclature that drew Boyiazis to the story. The mission of the Panje Project intersected her interests around human rights, public health, and women and girls’ issues