An unofficial group called Niagara for Women’s Rights has started an online fundraising campaign to put up pro-choice billboards across the region.
A fundraising page for the effort, launched Tuesday morning, has gained quick traction, having raised more than 30 per cent of its $7,000 goal by the evening.
Allie Hughes, one of the organizers for the campaign, said the idea came collectively in December of 2017, when a Facebook group dedicated to women’s rights started to discuss what they call an imbalance in Niagara’s visual narrative surrounding abortion.
“What we’re doing is trying to balance a conversation that is so heavy-handed on the anti-choice side as opposed to the pro-choice side,” said Hughes.
She said there’s a “silent majority” of pro-choice supporters who are tired of seeing billboards that tell women what they should do with their bodies.
The group, she said, wants to communicate and reinforce the rights Canadian women currently have.
“We know that’s already the law in Canada and we just want to educate people around that. We do have a right to choice in the country, and we’re just inundated with billboards and messages being held on street corners that are anti-choice.”
She said the group is not trying to be negative towards the counter-ads, but feels the local visual narrative should include both sides.
“We want to create a visual balance, because right now it is so one-sided.”
“One of our primary concerns is that this will be seen as some sort of attack, which it is definitely not. There is a lot of anti-choice messaging in the marketplace … the effort here is simply to balance that visual narrative that is happening across Niagara and to remind women who are challenging positions that there are people in our community who hear them, who see them, who support them.”
She said the rights that actually exist are “just not a part of that conversation.”
Hughes said the group focused heavily on what sort of imagery would best portray their message and decided to aim for simple, inclusive messages, one being “pro-choice is pro-life.”
She said the way the group delivers its message is an important part of creating a positive narrative.
“The messages that are out there today really address everything with one wide brush, and it’s not how it is. It’s always upper-middle-class-looking, kind of beautiful people up on these billboards. And that’s really not the reality that a lot of women are facing when faced with a decision that is life changing. To see a non-inclusive representation is not helpful at all because it creates more shame in that experience.”
“Basically we want all women to know that their individual voices matter and their individual choices are just that — they’re individual.”
She said the support so far has been incredible.
“Most of the donations have come from people that are not a part of our group. And I think that’s a really incredible thing.”
So far the project has raised $2,165.
As for the group, she humbly said it isn’t much yet.
“We’re not embarking on some sort of movement. We’re not a huge organization of people who get together and plot around a table. It’s just a group of people who saw a challenge and have come out and said ‘we can offer some perspective here. There are certainly people who are helping to do a little bit of organizing in order to just get the billboards up, but beyond the status of this initiative there’s nothing else.”
Hughes said the $7,000 would be going towards 10 billboards — $5,000 for the billboards plus production fees and taxes.
She couldn’t confirm the billboard locations, but said they will be spread across Niagara rather than being high density in one municipality.
If the project meets its goal, she said she is “nobody is closing doors” on the opportunity to make it larger, but at the current stage nobody is too sure of the future.
“There is certainly an optimism that maybe this goes a little bit further.”
Those who wish to participate can donate to the initiative. Emails will be collected and donors will be notified to project developments.
Hughes said the group plans to have a public unveiling ceremony if the project is a success.
The campaign fundraising page can be found at, chuffed.org/project/pro-choice-billboard-campaign-in-niagara.