Coinciding with National Cervical Screening Awareness week (June 10-16th 2019), I am hosting a pop-up craftivism event for the #we are all smear ready campaign on Saturday 8th June at Westbury Gardens in Bradford on Avon.
As a freelance designer passionate about social impact, I created the campaign after hearing cervical screening attendance rates are at an all time low. The campaign addresses embarrassment and body image factors that prevent many women from attending their cervical screening (smear test) appointments.
At the event, people can customise a mini pair of fabric pants with the aim of ‘dropping their (mini) pants in a public place’ the following week during National Cervical Screening Awareness week.
The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of cervical screenings, encourage conversations and potentially save lives. It is estimated that the NHS Cervical Screening programme saves 5000 lives every year and it proves to be the best protection against cervical cancer.
Craftivism (craft + activism) is a way to spread a message in a kind, gentle and supportive manner through the power of craft. Also known as ‘guerrilla crafting’, craftivism projects are often small scale, intended to draw people in and to leave their crafted messages in public places. This method of engaging people in social issues was founded in 2009 by Sarah Corbett, a self proclaimed ‘burnt-out activist’, who leads the multi award-winning Craftivist Collective.
I have been working with a group of fellow craftivists to create lots pairs of mini pants and we’re hoping to enlist the help of supportive public during the pop-up craftivism event to make even more pairs. To make your own pair, you can download this printable PDF pants template and guide to create your own from fabric, paper or card.
All ages and abilities are welcome to drop by for craft, cake and chat to help spread this important message and potentially save lives.
Live too far away or can’t attend the event? Why not make your own mini pair of pants maybe with a group of crafty friends? Here’s a printable PDF with what to do and a template for the pants.
Here’s why and how I created this campaign:
Knowing the impact of too many lives lost cervical cancer and hearing cervical screening attendance rates are at an all time low, I started researching why so many women are skipping their potentially life saving appointments.
Around the same time I received my letter inviting me for my screening appointment with its accompanying booklet. As a designer, I am familiar with how effective visual images are to convey information to an audience. I was shocked to only find two visuals and very little information on how women might feel emotionally before, during and after the screening.
Whilst looking into the current marketing materials on cervical screening I was inspired to create an awareness campaign targeting 25-29 year olds, with one in three women in this age group skipping appointments and 61% unaware they are in the highest risk group for cervical cancer.
In my work I use a human-centred approach to research and design, one that digs deep to understand the emotions and behaviours of a target audience. These insights feed into the design and decision making process to create the right designs tailored for the right people. This is how I approached this campaign, by focusing on women’s thoughts and actions around cervical screenings.
Research is a crucial part of the process and so I interviewed women eligible for cervical screening and also gathered reseach on internet forums, such as Mumsnet, as they are safe spaces for women to openly share their thoughts and fears on cervical screening. My findings correlated with those of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, with women citing fear of the test and body embarrassment issues as the main reasons for not attending their cervical screening appointments. I kept thinking of the booklet wording and imagery that I felt didn't really address these issues.
I had been working on this passion project on and off in-between other design work when I saw a sign in a local beauty salon that read " How's your lady garden? Don't beat around the bush, go Brazilian". It got me thinking (not about getting a Brazilian!), but that nail and beauty salon customers are generally young females who understand and relate to this messaging and humour.
With barriers to attend appointments ranging from "not being comfortable with how their genitals look" to women saying they "wouldn't go if they hadn't shaved or waxed their bikini area", a reference to lady gardens seemed like an ideal and relatable way to get the message across. A similar phrase of being 'beach ready' implies you should have work done to your bikini area but I wanted the campaign messaging to convey that we are all smear ready, however you look down below.
With the goal to raise awareness and address the barriers to attendance among all women but particularly 25-29 year olds, social media was the perfect place to promote these messages, launched on International Women’s Day this year in partnership with Wiltshire Women in Business.
The campaign was very well received with lots of engagement and support from fellow local business women and I am now working on expanding the reach of the message to a national level.
I also shared a photo of me at my cervical screening appointment with a pair of ‘post-it pants’ with the #weareallsmearready and encouraged others to participate and share the message.
Since then, I have continued the campaign through craftivism, inspired by Sarah Corbett’s Craftivist Collective.
As a group of fellow craft lovers we have been creating lots of mini pants ready customising with #weareallsmearready to drop in public places during National Cervical Screening week 10-16th June 2019.
I have been working with a group of fellow craftivists to create lots of these mini pants and am hoping to enlist the help of supportive public at the pop-up craftivism event to spread the message even further to save lives.