We’ve been working with Breakthrough India for nearly a year now. In December last year, we designed and developed an HTML5-based, point and click game for their Mission Hazaar campaign. Over 15,000 people clocked over 500 hours playing the game, making it one of the most successful campaigns we had ever worked on.
That is, until #Askingforit came along.
Women face sexual harassment everywhere – in public spaces, educational institutions, their workplaces and on public transport. While there are legal provisions to tackle perpetrators of sexual harassment, it is often the survivors of harassment who are questioned and blamed instead.
‘What were you wearing?’
‘Why were you walking alone?’
‘You were asking for it!’
‘She was asking for it!’ – a phrase that we hear all too often as a ‘justification’ for why a woman was sexually harassed. With this campaign Breakthrough decided enough was enough – they took the negative connotation around the phrase, and co-opted it to create a positive message:
Freedom. Security. Support. She’s asking for it.
With this in mind, we set off on a social media campaign trail aimed at clarifying the concept of sexual harassment and debunking the ‘she was asking for it’ idea. At its core, the campaign aimed to identify and articulate the kinds of behaviours that constitute sexual harassment. It also looked at demystifying the legal provisions available to survivors of sexual harassment and to share stories of sexual harassment as experienced by survivors, bystanders and perpetrators.
Thanks to Breakthrough’s on-ground activations and trainings, we knew that a lot of people were not aware of what behaviours constituted sexual harassment. Perpetrators had no idea that their actions were wrong, while survivors were unaware that they were dealing with a legal offense and had access to recourse. We thought it was time we cleared up the ambiguity around the perception and reactions to sexual harassment.
One of the most successful series we created for Breakthrough India, was the Law FAQs series. To create awareness about different laws and provisions for sexual harassment survivors, we created a series of ‘Did You Know’ posters. These posters focused on 3 kinds of legal provisions:
1. Laws on sexual harassment as stated in the Indian Penal Code
2. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
3. Information on how to go about filing an FIR if you have faced sexual harassment.
We knew this information was necessary, but we had no idea how much it was needed until it went viral! The album was shared over 8,000 times on Facebook. It was picked up and re-shared by ScoopWhoop, The Logical Indian, and Storypick. As a result of all of this, Breakthrough’s organic reach on Facebook went through the roof! At one point we were watching our 28,000 member strong page reach over 3 million viewers organically in a day! No marketing, no promotion – just great, shareable content.
Meanwhile, Breakthrough’s Instagram page was the perfect platform to bring out the reality of sexual harassment. Through a series of graphic novel styled frames, we used minimal text layered on images to convey five stories from different points of view including a sexual harassment survivor, a bystander, and a perpetrator.
The incredible amount of buzz and attention #AskingForIt received online led us to realise that its success was the result of two major factors.
1. People often want, or even need, a space to be able to speak about issues and causes close to their hearts.
2. Sometimes, it’s the simplest of messages told in the clearest way that get the most traction.
Asking4it was a campaign that we drove solely on content. With no marketing budget or tech innovations, we managed to reach over five million people on Facebook and potentially over 8 million on Twitter. For us, the experience was, at its core, a lesson in the power of a good message, delivered simply and effectively.