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Laadli: A signature campaign to save the girl child

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | August 11, 2009
An initiative by Population First and Spatial Access Communications, the campaign aims to gather support against female foeticide

Population First, an NGO working on population and health issues within the framework of women's rights and social development, had launched an initiative called Laadli, back in June 2005. This year, the NGO has taken the initiative to a higher plane, in order to reach out to the masses. It has launched the Laadli 1 Million Signature Campaign recently.

In its fight to strike a balance in the ever-falling child sex ratio in India, and to stop female foeticide facilitated through pre-natal sex determination, Population First has been partnered by Meenakshi Madhvani's Spatial Access Communications, which has created, strategised and executed the campaign.

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Shocking facts -- such as four little girls are killed in their mothers' wombs every minute in India, because of illegal sex determination by parents and in-laws, who do not want a girl child -- prompted this campaign.

Through the campaign, the NGO plans to reach the mark of one million signatures or pledges. Following this, they would petition the government to enforce The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) 1994 -- which has been in place for the last 15 years, but has seen less than 10 convictions so far -- in a more effective and stringent manner.

Meenakshi Bhalla, chief executive officer, Spatial Access Communications, says, "Getting people to cut off counterfoils saying 'I pledge my support' and dropping them into boxes is too tedious and ineffective a process. The challenge was to move masses beyond these startling numbers and get them to do something. Make a simple pledge, make a big difference. So, we used the online medium to quite an extent."

The campaign includes a TVC that has been created by Ram Madhvani of Equinox Productions and Morse Code Films -- which has helped out with the animations and graphics, digital presence, permission marketing through mobile short codes and PR activities.

While the 40-second TVC is enjoying free airtime through a partnership with Zee Network, as well as Bindass and ETV; it can also be viewed on the official site, Laadli.org, as well as on Youtube.com. Apart from this, presence on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Orkut, and blogs are also part of this campaign.

For example, the campaign is riding on Facebook features such as Fan pages, Cause and Communities and Twitter features such as status updates. Apart from this, an entity called Sukanya Sharma has been created, who, through her Orkut and Twitter accounts, is guiding people on the campaign and the initiative.

"The main objective of the campaign is to get people online, or get them to SMS 'Laadli' to 575758, and pledge their support for this initiative," says Bhalla.

A unique effort is in the form of a tie-up with TomoGas Booking Service, which will spread the word about the campaign by playing out the Laadli message to 30 lakh customers through an interactive voice system, and draw pledges of support from housewives. The entity has access to consumers of LPG cylinder providers, such as BPCL, HPCL and IOCL across India, who can order their gas refills through a single national number.

Bobby Sista, executive trustee, Population First, says, "Once we have reached a million signatures, or maybe a considerable number of pledges, we would take up this petition as a testimonial to the Prime Minister.

The government understands the power of the vote bank and we hope they acknowledge this effort."

At the time of filing this story, the website had received 22,051 pledges.

Population First came into existence in 2002. It launched the Laadli initiative in 2005, promoting it through events and word of mouth. In 2007, it announced the National Awards for Creative Excellence for Social Change and the UNFPA-Laadli Media Awards for Gender sensitivity. These awards targeted the social issue of female foeticide and falling sex ratio in the country. Sista plans to revive the awards by end of 2009, though they did not take place last year.