Barbie provoking conversations on gender inequality

09 May Barbie provoking conversations on gender inequality

Another project for you to do wherever you are in the world at any time:

Written by Craftivist Hannah Griffiths: 

We have put this barbie up to raise awareness of maternal health issues in the global south but you could link it to another gender issue you are passionate about.

There are so many international days, even the International Talk like a Pirate Day that the International Day of the Midwife sounds like just another pointless event doesn’t it? But this year over 536,000 women will die of pregnancy-related complications. The majority of these deaths occur in developing countries.

Medically trained midwives could help to prevent this.

The Millennium Development Goals, created in 2000 and signed by all 192 United Nations member states, are meant to be achieved by 2015. MDG5 aims to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters and give all women access to reproductive healthcare. Although in about one third of developing countries skilled health workers attend 95% of all births, the goal is unlikely to be achieved in time. Progress is too slow to hit the target.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, yet 450 women for every 100 000 live births die whilst giving birth. That’s 56 times the maternal mortality rate of the UK.

Pantu is 20 years old. She has been pregnant five times, but lost the previous four births because the placenta was malformed. She lives in a remote rural village in West Bengal, miles from any healthcare facilities. Following support from a local NGO Pantu received medication from a government hospital, and treatment from a private doctor. Basanti was born a happy, healthy baby. The couple followed the advice of the community health worker to the letter; Ranjit is a supportive husband who only wishes the best for her young wife.

Some are not quite so lucky. A recent Save the Children report highlights that the world needs 350 000 more midwives.

Will this be a priority for governments and development organisations? It should be as the future of the country’s economy and population rely on it. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister as an independent country, claimed “you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the state of the women”. He was right.

Without campaign action maternal health is likely to be pushed further and further down the agenda.

Craftivist Collective helps address this. This activist group creates craft and public art aiming to expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights abuses. They meet each month in London, but people can get involved in all projects from anywhere in the world.

Actions such as these will surely help inspire those in power to do something. For the sake of the world’s mothers, we hope they do.


  • Buy a second hand Barbie or any small doll,
  • use paint, pen or what we used here: stamp ink to rub into her so she looks bruised and battered.
  • Make her a placard and tie her up with gaffer tape.
  • Find a good fact, statistic or quote which will provoke people to talk about gender inequality and put that on the placard.
  • Leave your Barbie wrapped around a bar in a public place and take a photograph.
  • Email us the photograph and an explanation of your message on the placard and where you left it. We will blog it.

For more images of this barbie in context go here

photo by Robin

  • Becca
    Posted at 05:18h, 21 November Reply

    This is the greatest! We are going to do this on my Community College Campus in February during Valentine’s week. We have collected almost 100 barbie dolls and will saturate the campus with them. We are going with a domestic violence/awareness theme. Hopefully we will be able to move these dolls to numerous downtown locations. Any tips or ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    • Craftivist Collective
      Posted at 19:14h, 21 November Reply

      OMGeee Becca, please please please take some photographs and write a blog for us about how it goes so we can post it on our website, tweet it and add the photographs to Flickr 🙂 Best thing to do is have a clear message and know what you are trying to provoke people to think about. Feel free to email us at: “craftivist – collective [at] hotmail dot com” if you want more advise. Good luck! 🙂

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