In November 2019, Global Health 50/50 (GH5050) launched the This is Gender photography competition in response to the lack of representational diversity and critically reflective images of gender in global health. In the highly politicised and contested contemporary environment where the very concepts of gender and gender equality, and those who dare to promote it, are under attack worldwide, we believe that images that explore gender in all its dazzling diversity are more important than ever.

The first iteration of the competition received over 400 submissions from 53 different countries across all 7 regions of the world. By turns playful, poetic and challenging, each image shows us a different face of gender. The photographs hold up a mirror to the diverse ways gender norms –  rigid and fluid, traditional and progressive – are lived and subverted by men, women, transgender and non-binary people.

A second competition was run in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic and we received over 1000 submissions from 65 countries. The shortlisted images offer a greater field of depth that renders visible what it means to be a gendered body in a time of pandemic. Vibrant, dynamic, and defiant, they disrupt the gender blindness of the COVID-19 response and demand to be seen.

As part of GH5050’s first national report on Nepal, This is Gender hosted a competition in Nepal in 2021/22. The competition showcases artists’ and subjects’ perceptions of gender by exploring the diversity of gender norms, beliefs, attitudes and lifestyles of men, women and non-binary people in Nepal.

In 2023, we expanded the project in a number of ways. We sought a variety of image-based media including paintings, drawings, collages and photography. We also encouraged members of the health and development communities as well as artists and photographers to submit images to the collection. The Collection focused on gender equality or gendered inequalities with four sub themes that are tied to the research of Global Health 50/50. We received over 400 submissions with a greater variety and diversity than ever before.

Some images are hard-hitting and respond to pervasive injustices that women face on a daily basis in different contexts. Other images are experiential and invite the viewer to reflect on shared circumstances. All of the images are provocative, urging audiences to ask questions.

Images from the This is Gender collections have been featured in GH5050’s annual reports since 2020. The images establish a dialogue with our data and remind readers that there is more at stake than the issue of gender equality. Equity with organisations active in global health is crucial to achieving health for all.

We hope that This is Gender will fuel a collective demand for a more critical and reflective approach to the production, distribution and consumption of images in global health.


Global health has an image problem. Often produced by Western photographers and depicting abjection and vulnerability, the standard images used to promote and express the work of the sector risk reinforcing a colonial and othering gaze.

This is Gender seeks to reimagine the uncomfortable reality of our representational practices. The images aim to challenge prevailing norms of power, privilege and priorities and displace familiar visual tropes of suffering, vulnerability and otherness. Representational politics and visual ethics are a key component of the collection and are considered throughout the submission and selection processes.


Global Health 50/50® is an independent not-for-profit initiative that generates comprehensive analysis, action and accountability for intersectional gender equality in health globally. Initiated in 2018, its annual global report along with the Gender and Health Index monitors the policies and practices of hundreds of organisations active in global health and health policy.

This is Gender (In)Equality 2023