How a young group of artists opened the debate on safe abortion in Gauteng


What would be more powerful than art to express the feeling of a whole community? The deepest transformations of a society always come from emotional reactions, and art has the power to spark up these feelings and start conversations.

To help talk about a sensitive subject and advocate for the importance of safe abortions in our communities, on June 2017, Fem launched an art competition. The competition gives South African artists a chance to use their social voice to openly discuss a taboo and spread a positive message of support and respect towards women who have opted for an abortion. As a mobile health initiative that leverages popular technology channels to remove obstacles between women and their decision to have an abortion, Fem believes that art is one of the best ways to communicate our message.

Many local artists submitted their work and we were amazed by their creativity and compromise with women’s reproductive rights and health. On September 4th, the winners and their work were finally announced. Lucky Vilakazi, Neo Mahlangu, Kagisho Mochoari, Mhlaba Moabi, Kabelo Sebako, Sinalo Ngcaba, Musa Sokhela from the Umuzi school were proudly invited to see the murals displayed on various walls throughout Gauteng.

“As a group, we took initiative to immerse ourselves into the requirements of the competition. We created a survey where 40 people participated (37 females, 3 males), we approached our colleagues and called Fem to thoroughly understand this often taboo issue”, says Neo Mahlangu, one of the winning artists. “That is where the idea to create a campaign that speaks support, love, togetherness, and understanding through a wall was born. The wall will peak interest because it will be like peaking into a private conversation. It also reaffirms what Fem believes in, that you can receive help using your phone, and that is okay.”

Although abortion is legal in South Africa, half of the procedures continue to take place in unsafe settings. The artwork produced by the students was smart, witty, and free of judgment. It definitely deserved to win the competition. It is very inspiring to see the energy and the commitment of such young artists using their talent to make a difference in their communities. We must also thank everyone who took part in this challenge. Raising awareness about safe abortion in South Africa has just begun.

If you want to explore Gauteng and find the 6 walls where the artwork is being displayed, here are the addresses:

  • Ben Naude Drive, Diepkloof, Soweto
  • Chris Hani Road, Pimville, Soweto
  • Soweto Highway, Diepkloof, Soweto
  • Tsamaya Avenue, Mamelodi, Pretoria/Tshwane
  • Maunde Street, Atteridgeville, Pretoria/Tshwane
  • Brian Mazibuko Drive, Tembisa, eKurhuleni

About Umuzi:
Umuzi exists to change the narrative from the inside out. Through inclusive growth and access to both quality free education and the creative industry, Umuzi is creating the next generation of creative leaders to change the industry. The Umuzi Academy offers a free one-year learnership that produces high-calibre, entry-level designers, copywriters, digital, and multimedia professionals.

About Fem: Your choice, just an SMS away
Fem supports the right of every woman to make safe and informed decisions about her body, most specifically the decision to have an abortion. We focus on the practical issues that are often overlooked by existing healthcare systems: privacy, transparency, convenience, cost, and supportive environments.

Fem is an SMS platform that refers women to safe and legal abortion service providers in their area, quickly and privately. The user simply sends the trigger word ‘Fem’ to short code 30816 via SMS, and receives a referral SMS to a legal and safe health facility in their area.

To access all our products SMS for free the word “Fem” to 30816.

Find us on Facebook & Twitter: Fem_RSA
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By Pauline Diaz
September, 2017