Project Hers, a campaign conceptualised by Citizen Dentsu, is seeking public support for a petition addressed to the President of India to bring about regulation in creating laws that will make it mandatory to build toilets in every building and residence.
The campaign highlights the struggles of women who are forced to defecate in public because of lack of toilets in their homes. Defecating in public is stressful for women for many reasons including the heightened risk of sexual assault, contracting infections due to bad sanitary conditions and general environmental stress. These stressors stem from sanitation activities like “carrying water, washing, bathing, menstrual management, and changing clothes,” said the Project’s mandate. The campaign began initially as an activation where the team wanted to replace the signage on every Women’s Restroom to a girl with a noose around her neck.
“Lots of companies supported this cause in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, including an airline. The loo sticker sent the people to the website that showed them the facts and asked them to sign the petition,” said Titus Upputuru, National Creative Director, Dentsu Marcom.
The hard-hitting campaign tells the story of 17-year-old Khushboo from Jharkhand, who committed suicide in 2015 because her parents did not build a toilet in the house at the cost of saving money for the daughter’s dowry. Media reports had said that the BA student, Khushboo, was ashamed of defecating in the open and wanted an indoor toilet to be built before her marriage. The two-minute ad shows Khusboo’s father sitting next to her body while her suicide letter is being voiced over by Khubhoo. The ad is a call to action to the public to sign the petition that will influence the establishment of a new law. The words “Every house must have a toilet” appear on the screen as the video fades away. The approach of the team tailored to create a strong impact on the viewer. Explaining the thought process behind the video, Upputuru said, “To my mind the ad was almost journalistic in its approach, because it was reporting an incident that actually occurred. In addition, black and white has a sense of journalism to it. Also, it makes the ad that much more powerful.”
Upputuru explained that this campaign needed to be as discomforting as it was meant to be. The ad, which is a call to action for the public to sign the petition, was meant to make viewers take stock of the horrors that women without access to indoor toilets face. “Of course, we wanted the audience not just to be shocked but disturbed. Some of the people who saw it first said it was disturbing. Some saw it half-way and stopped saying they will see it after their children slept. If over 300 Indian million women are dealing with this psychological trauma every single morning, and some of them could not handle it, like Khushboo, why should it not disturb us? Us who have the privilege of a toilet. These deaths made me think that a toilet is actually a privilege. It is so basic that you don't even think about it, but can you imagine that in India it is still a privilege of only about 40 percent of population,” he said.
“The coverage of safe and accessible sanitation in India is still in deplorable state. The disparities run across regions, religions and castes. However, the one strata of the society that faces the brunt of this is the women of India. Lack of access to sanitation leads not only to a plethora of diseases and health implications but also serious social and psychological stress among women,” the petition said.
The campaign is being run across all mediums including, television, print, activation, and radio.