As the CEO of Rainbo I am writing to give our views on the controversy surrounding the “Pregnant Teenage” sculpture made by the Danish artist Jens Galschiot. As an organisation we strongly believe in the message the sculpture and the artist convey regarding how the Bush administration policies together with religious fundamentalists, of all colours, are effectively passing a death sentence against many women in poor countries and particularly adolescents girls.
At Rainbo we do not believe that reproductive health and rights is a minor or side issue to the larger one of poverty alleviation. In fact, proving the centrality of addressing reproductive health and rights to the success of any attempts to alleviate poverty for African women is at the heart of our work. This is precisely the reason why we wanted to exhibit this sculpture at the “Your voice against poverty campaign”.
We did not anticipate the refusal by the organisers of the day as we did not think the message is controversial for progressive Christians. We also do not believe that in this age of sex in the media the general public in the UK, including families and young people, would find the sculpture or its message inappropriate. In fact we believe that families with children and adolescents are more likely to benefit from understanding the importance of sexual education and provision of contraceptive services more than anyone else.
Despite our disagreement, in principle, with the position of those within the Your Voice Against Poverty campaign who made this decision, we have a good working relationship with Tom Allen and with BOND. We did not believe that escalating the difference in opinion is appropriate for this occasion, would create an extra organisational burden and cause disruption of an important day of solidarity.
However, we intend to raise the issue with BOND members to allow a constructive discussion of how to negotiate differences in values within such a large coalition without suppressing the issues of smaller organizations for fear of upsetting the larger and more powerful ones. We request that BOND advise us on the most appropriate forum to discuss this; through a face-to-face members meeting or through an e-mail discussion which we will be happy to host and moderate.
So, despite our sincere respect and appreciation for the work of Jens Galschiot we had decided not to sponsor his visit or the display of his work on this occasion. This decision was made in light of our commitment to abide by the ruling of the Steering Group of a larger campaign of which we are members. We regret that Jens has gone through the inconvenience of buying tickets before we gave him the full go ahead. We also hope that we will find occasion to use his inspirational work in the future.
However, in the event that the organizers of the June 2nd campaign see it fit to reverse their decision we would be happy to work with Jens, and others, to articulate the essential message of the sculpture to a wider audience.
President & CEO
Rainbo - Health & Rights for African Women