In 2015 Pohela Boishakh festivities, Bangladesh suffered one of its worst case of public harassment on women. A Google search done in March 2016 still suggested Pohela Boishakh had become a terrifying occasion for women. A festival which used to represent a new beginning for Bengalis, had turned into the worst nightmarefor women. This incident once again struck us with the ever present question of women’s safety in our society. Young women were hesitant to go out and celebrate, fathers were scared to let their daughter go out, mothers were anxious about their families. It was a shame for the biggest cultural festival in Bangladesh.
The need for the campaign was instigated by lots of harassment incidents against women throughout 2015 and early 2016. With the rapid increase in number of rape and sexual harassment becoming a daily occurrence, we wanted to bring people out of the delusion of a “safe society”.
We wanted to invoke people to step up against harassment. Who would be better than the youth of Bangladesh to bring about such a bold change? Volunteer for Bangladesh (VBD), the youth development wing of JAAGO Foundation, took a stance with WebAble to prevent harassment against women in 2016 Pohela Boishakh. We wanted to ensure that everyone celebrates to continue our heritage, to bond with friends and family, to erase the memories of previous year and do it all without risking our women.
We designed an unconventional Facebook optimized campaign to grab youth’s attention with powerful visual illustrations asking the audience to take a stand. Our campaign featured bold and thought provoking statements. This Pohela Boishakh, we wanted to eliminate threats, not celebration!
পহেলা বৈশাখে পুনরাবৃত্তি চাই শৈশবস্মৃতির, কোন দুঃস্বপ্নের নয়।
এই বিশাখে চাই বাতাসা,মিঠাই আর আনন্দ; অন্য কিছু নয়।
Exceptions are not examples, let’s celebrate safely this year
You don’t have to be related to step up for someone
Facebook is the largest & fastest growing social network in Bangladesh. Every 13 minutes, at least one new user joins the network. Keeping this in mind, we used Facebook as our communication platform. We created a series of 5 contents under the theme “Eliminate threats, not celebration” and channeled the message across VBD’s Facebook community.
The contents were very direct, encouraging the audience to condemn harassment and take a stance. It also voiced young men’s concerns about women’s safety. Since VBD is a youth platform with 25,000+ volunteers, they were the best launchpad to initiate this social transformation.
This was a purely organic campaign on Facebook with no media buying. We received 250,000+ reactions, comments, messages, shares and positive vibes. Thanks to VBD’s volunteer network, our message wasn’t only restricted to online conversations. Passionate volunteers took the conversation offline and with their friends & family. Through execution of this campaign, we successfully reinforced the idea: eliminate threats, not celebration.
Most importantly, our campaign stirred up conversations on social media around women’s safety. Unlike the previous year, there was no harassment incidents this time. Pohela Boishakh celebrations bounced back to it’s festive heights again, this time, with more inclusiveness for our women.