Fighting Gender-Based Violence: The Many Forms of Activism


This week, HowToUse and safe2choose are joining forces alongside global leaders in reproductive rights for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. And make no mistake: the systemic denial of a pregnant person’s right to a safe abortion is a leading driver behind global rates of maternal mortality.

But the 16 Days of Activism raises a valid question for participants around the world: what does activism against gender-based violence look like? Where do we even begin, and how can a single voice contribute?

For such an encompassing question, the answer is refreshingly simple. Activism against gender-based violence comes in many forms. It can be scaled to global audiences or localized to specific communities. It can be jarring and provocative or subtle and inviting. It can be bracingly loud or starkly silent. At it’s heart though, the message is clear: targeted violence against a gender will not go unnoticed, will not go unnamed, and will not go unchallenged.

Picture an activist, and chances are you’re envisioning a protestor who’s taken to the streets. 2018 saw a number of pro-choice marches in countries around the world, most notably in Ireland and Argentina. (Though legalized abortion did not pass in Argentina, activists drew considerable global support and galvanized a movement that fights on to this day.)

But street protests are just one way to get a message across. Others prefer to explore protest in its more intimate, artistic forms.

Take, for example, Barcelona-based photographer Laia Abril. In her work, A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: Abortion, Abril turns her lens towards the realities of unsafe abortion around the world. The project was awarded the Photobook of the Year Award by the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation.

But photography is not the only art form to deliver a stunningly profound message. In response to restrictive abortion legislation passed in Texas, fiber artist Chi Nguyen stitched together a massive quilt to represent the 5.4 million women impacted by the lack of reproductive health services. The quilt was displayed outside the US Supreme Court during a rally organized by the Center For Reproductive Rights.

Must art protest be visual? Absolutely not. Storytelling has long been celebrated within safe abortion communities for the platform it provides so that those who have terminated a pregnancy can tell their own stories- openly, honestly, and unashamedly. Self-described “story-listener” Dr. Melissa Madera hosts the Abortion Diary podcast. Each episode features a woman giving voice to her abortion experience.

Maybe now we’re ready to return to that original question: what does activism to end gender-based violence look like? Well, it turns out it can look like a lot of things. So find your passion, find your medium, and get your message out there!