Media has long been a powerful force for empowerment. New media content is constantly being created with the purpose of encouraging citizens to address issues at the local, national and international levels. One such example is India’s Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell) campaign, which has used new media channels to catch the attention of local youth on the important issue of domestic violence and encourage them to become a part of the solution.
The campaign specifically targets men and boys since it is believed that ninety percent of those who engage in domestic violence are men. However, studies show that in close to fifty percent of the cases, it is men who have intervened to stop the violence. The campaign believes that men can broach the issue of domestic violence with their peers in a non-accusatory manner and become positive role models. This can aid prevention efforts.
To me, the most fascinating feature of the campaign are the short complementary videos that feature true stories of incidences when men and boys who witness domestic violence take a minute out of their everyday lives to intervene and stop the violence. The message is simple: If you hear abuse going on inside someone’s house, ring the doorbell and stop the violence. One such video unfolds with a group of youths playing cricket in a neighborhood. Upon hearing abuse going on in a nearby flat, they walk towards the flat and ring the bell. A man answers the door, and they tell him that their ball may have entered the apartment; meanwhile, the man sees one of the youth overtly displaying the ball in his hand. There is an unspoken message sent and received at this juncture. It becomes clear to the viewer and the man in the apartment that the ruse about the ball is solely to serve notice that the abuse within the apartment has not gone unnoticed and will not be ignored. The scene ends with the man closing the door with a shameful face. Other equally powerful videos are found here and here.
In addition to the short videos, the campaign has employed other innovative media strategies to spread the message. It has involved celebrities and used ‘champion voices’ of men and boys from various walks of life who are seen as great role models capable of inspiring change. It has used the platform of social media and user-generated sites, such as the blogosphere, You-tube and the campaign website to keep visitors updated on issues of violence that today’s youth face and the kinds of solutions they seek or offer. The campaign website also hosts discussions around India’s newly enacted Domestic Violence Act to encourage victims to file cases or use the presented cases as precedents.
The online activities are integrated with offline activities through training and networking opportunities. The campaign uses Google Maps to showcase the different cities that it works in and the organizations that are available in those cities that can provide immediate help to victims of violence, including NGOs, Shelters, Government Officials, and Police Stations. For those wishing to start their own campaign, the website offers downloadable tool-kits and video clips as mentioned above.
The campaign has also initiated the Rights Advocate program that organizes on-the-ground leadership training to reaffirm the message and help youth recognize and fight domestic violence in their own communities. To reflect the issues of marginalized communities, the campaign has launched a video-documentary program that trains these social groups to shoot short videos pertaining to domestic violence issues around them.
Despite its relatively small staff and budget, Breakthrough, the organization behind the campaign, claims to have reached 124 million through social media, TV, radio, press, and mobile video vans mobilized to reach those who do not have access to modern technologies. The campaign has received the endorsement of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in India to promote the recently enacted Domestic Violence Act and has broadcast the messages on national television with the help of the video clips created pro bono by the advertising company, Ogilvy and Mather.
With a carefully thought out target audience, media tools and strategic partnership, the campaign is now going global. Just recently, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined Bell Bajao as the first global champion. In his video message, he invites men all over the world to unite in stopping violence against women.
As Breakthrough's Director of Communication, Sonali Khan explains, "Ultimately we want the women to benefit, but our aim was to reach the men and boys to change their attitude and behavior”.
Photo Credit: Dazt (Flickr User)