When Breakthrough India, a women's rights organisation, asked 'what constitutes sexual harassment', it was inundated with answers such as whistles, catcalls, unwanted advances, and leering. But, do young boys who make these gestures at girls/women really understand the shamefulness of their actions? Or, are they simply callous towards it? It is this willful and stubborn ignorance that Breakthrough's new campaign #shareyourstory tries to depict.
Talking about the campaign, Khan further informs that the creative brief to the agency was to encourage inter-generational dialogue around sexual harassment in Indian families, and get young boys (15-25 years) to introspect.
"We wanted to convey our message using the medium of parental discussion, more so, through the mother. In India, sexual harassment, if at all discussed in families, follows a stereotypical pattern of fathers talking to their sons and mothers to daughters. But, we believe that for a young boy, it is the mother with whom he has a stronger emotional connect since, as the caregiver, she is the closest female contact. Therefore, when he learns of something like this happening with his own mother, then the chances of him introspecting are higher," asserts Khan.
The videos have been produced by Little Lamb Films for the first/digital leg of the campaign, with the intent to plant the seed of the idea in people's mind. Breakthrough has further planned a number of on-ground activations and events around it in the next phase.
Breakthrough is a human rights organisation, which works to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. The organisation's multimedia campaigns, community mobilisation, agenda-setting, and leadership training programmes equip men and women worldwide to challenge the status quo and take action towards dignity, equality, and justice for all. In India, it works on issues relating to domestic violence, early marriage, gender-based sex selection, and sexual harassment.
According to Anirban Chaudhuri, senior vice president - strategic planning, FCB Ulka #ShareYourStory is a good conversation starter, but needs to be followed up by on-ground action with kids and parents to be an effective behavior change agent.
"If men will be men, it is better to instill some lessons of responsible behaviour in them when they are still boys," he opines.
"Whenever you confront young men on issues like eve-teasing, they sheepishly dish out a lame excuse of doing it as 'light-hearted fun'. What they fail to realise is that it leaves behind deep scars. The execution brings out that aspect reasonably well by leveraging the mother-son relationship," adds Chaudhuri.
A breakthrough idea?
"However, I think we are dealing with a monster issue. This is not a skin disease, but a cancer which needs an immediate surgery. Ointments and lotions won't work. While it has the right perspective, the route adopted is a little too soft, and the impact will be too slow," he states.
"I would have gone for a completely different route because most boys who do this understand only one language, that of public involvement and the fear of retribution," adds Suthan.