In the recent years, Social Media has proved to be a powerful vehicle in bringing women’s issues and concerns to a wider group of people, ensuring immediate reaction on the streets of the cities, and pushing the policy makers to step up for the requisite actions. Recent cases reflect the power of social media to bridge the gap between the women’s activism at grassroots to the policy making processes. ‘Women and girls’ have recently been talked about a lot, giving the idea of ‘Gender Equality’ a reasonable room to fit in. This subject has primarily been a central focus of various development NGOs as integrating gender perspective is essential to make all programmes and policies gender-neutral and equitable. As a society, we have always been accepting the way women are treated, portrayed, or dealt with in different situations. But now, gender equality has tremendously been highlighted through advocacy and campaigning. They have successfully been breaking the socio-cultural barriers and challenging the gender stereotypes that lay down specific patriarchal norms of the society.
2015 proved itself as a remarkable year of fighting the ill-effects of gender inequality and a few campaigns turned up to be a stepping stone to the future of women in our country. Not only nonprofits, but even the marketing industry tried its hands to fight pertinent issue of gender inequality through gender campaigns. Companies like Airtel, Ariel, and Whisper came up to highlight the issue in their own ways and a few did succeed in spreading across the right message.
The most renowned and illustrious gender campaign was launched at the eve of International Women’s Day by United Nations- the “He for She” campaign. It intended to advocate men to stand for the rights of their mothers, sisters, and daughters; claiming that the rights of women and girls are duty of all. This attempt to urge boys and men to take a stand for the women’s rights got recognition at a global level. The ultimate goal of the campaign was to involve all stakeholders; especially men and boys to work for the global movement to end gender inequality by 2030. This inclusive approach aims to mobilize 1 billion men to accelerate the achievement of gender equality. It uses innovative online, offline, and mobile technology to identify men in every city, community, and village around the world. ‘He for She’ is believed to be quite affirmative as it evolves men’s own attitude and behavior towards women and ensure that they don’t personally get involved in any kind of gender-based violence. This attempt resembles the all-time technique of assigning the task of maintaining the discipline of class to the naughtiest child. Engaging men and boys can be quite challenging but fruitful too. Working with men as advocates for change proved to be a successful and promising one.
Another gender campaign involving men and boys was initiated by Breakthrough, a women’s rights organization, using the popular hashtag lingo, named ‘#ShareYourStory’. Through #ShareYourStory, Breakthrough aimed to initiate an inter-generational dialogue amidst Indian families about the issue of Sexual Harassment and get young boys to introspect the entire issue with greater sensitivity. Women have shared the videos of their interaction with their son as well as few have also initiated to write open letters to their sons, explaining the evil act of sexual harassment they face while going to their workplaces. The belief of talking and highlighting the issue in itself is one of the ways to challenge and abolish it. It is a step to convey to men and boys that the actions that seem “fun” to them might be leading to serious sexual offenses. This campaign definitely encouraged a lot of women to come up to discuss the issue and realize that whatever happened to them must not happen to other women as well. Besides, it not only encourages women to come up and discuss their issues but to be a guiding force to sensitize their male family members as well.
Besides sexual harassment, another important gender issue that needed utmost attention was brought by the renowned sanitary napkins’ manufacturers, Whisper. Whisper’s “Touch the Pickle” campaign won the Glass Lion Grand Prix at Cannes International Festival of Creativity. The campaign aimed to tackle the taboos related to menstruation, which are commonly encountered in our country. The campaign unfailingly encouraged women and girls to understand and talk openly about menstruation and defy the bizarre taboos. “Don’t enter temples”, “Don’t touch the idols of God”, “Don’t enter the kitchen” are some of the absurdly ridiculous taboos and “Don’t touch the pickles” being the most weird of them all. These ever-existing myths have actually made girls and women feel that they are ‘impure’ during the time of their menstruation cycle. Realizing that these irrational taboos do not exist only in India but worldwide; brought together many women achievers including social activists, women entrepreneurs, and a few actresses as well.
Bringing about a change in the mindset is the toughest task and if achieved even a bit, calls for a huge success.
The patriarchal social norms have always laid down the do’s and don’ts, thereby supporting the unspoken rules prevalent in our society, deeply rooting the inequality between men and women. Oxfam, an Indian non-profit working to create an equal and just society, came up with its gender campaign “#WhyTheFarq”. It aimed to question the prevailing social attitudes, behaviors, and practices that are fueling Gender Inequality in our society. This 16 days of activism tended to focus on restricted mobility of women and the lack of power to get involved in various decision making processes. The campaign intended to focus on the young minds where the seeds of discrimination are sown. The best thing about the campaign is that it followed a comprehensive approach involving both the sexes. It attempted to persuade stakeholders to monitor their thoughts, behaviors, and actions. It also get across an important aspect of inspiring others to combat gender equality at their own levels.
Social Media is a powerful vehicle. But getting it into a proper and efficient use is highly desirable and one such gender campaign was launched by Center for Social Research to guide students across the country to use social media in a conscious manner. The campaign “Social Surfing” reinforced the idea that access is empowerment. The intention to initiate the dialogue on creating a positive gender sensitive online environment, succeeded through its way, thereby realizing the power that Social Media possesses to bring about positive Social Change. Addressing a diverse group of internet users could be a challenge but encouraging students to come up with their own online campaigns addressed the possible challenge with great efficiency. Addressing gender sensitive issues like Gender-based violence have always been a point at issue but the way of addressing it innovatively and strategically paved a smooth road for the campaign.
Apart from some successful gender campaigns of 2015, there were a few launched with the same intention but their execution was rationally questioned. Campaigns like #Don’tMancrimate and #VogueEmpower contradicted the points in question themselves. These so-called gender campaigns were themselves contradicting gender sensitivity and thus embarked severe criticism.
Gender campaigns have always been brought up with good intentions but the results always depend on the way they address the sensitive issues, penetrating the minds of all possible stakeholders and initiating a positive ray of hope in the attitudes and behaviors of people; to fight the odds and mark a sustainable change in the society.
About the Author
“Arshiya Wadhwa is a Development Sector professional, with a keen interest in women’s issues.”
Discuss this article on Facebook