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Gaali Free India: Swachh Bhasha, Swachh Bharat
Vandana Sethhi, founder and director of Water Communications, and founder of ‘Gaali Free India’, talks to G20 about her social initiative aiming to make the society free of abuse.
Q. A Gaali-free India, Bollywood especially. How did this unique concept unfold?
A. The idea was to raise awareness so at least people would start talking about it, and hopefully, from there more people would be conscious when using such language—something that had become subconscious or even unconscious thing! In the process, as more and more people get conscientized, it may ultimately lead to an end or at least an arrest or slowing down of the use of such filthy language.
For sure, there were personal triggers—or like you would call them ‘inflection points’. Personal experiences that kind of became the final straw after which I knew I had to do something.
So, one day, while standing on a pavement in Delhi, waiting for the car to arrive, there was a young man, a boy, in fact, talking right next to me on the phone. From the context, it was clear he was talking to his girlfriend or something because he was pretty loud and oblivious to everyone around. But, every second word was a gaali—abuse in Hindi, English, and languages a multi-linguist would not have been able to identify. It went on for over 15 minutes—I mean what energy and perseverance… all for a wrong cause!
For me, each gaali spewed recklessly was one more nail in the coffin of a decent society. Something had to be done soon and someone had to it. And then I realised, I had to be that someone!
Q. Can you expound the tagline ‘Swachh Bhasha, Swachh Bharat’ to our readers?
A. The entire premise for the tag-line was that Swachh Bhasha is also a component of Swachh Bharat. Let’s not only clean up our surroundings and environment but our language and minds as well.
Q. What type of traction have you received to date, in terms of support from Bollywood?
A. Thank God for social media! Online has given us so much traction, I’m very sure we would not have been able to achieve as much as we have in such a short time if we launched this initiative say 20 years ago when social media had not yet found its feet and the internet lacked true penetration.
We’ve also tried to stay topical and newsy, because that’s the best way to grab people’s attention. So during the recent lockdown, our research showed that one big problem—and not just in India, but worldwide—was domestic abuse. The situation was leading to deteriorating mental health and precipitating violent episodes, where most often the victims were wives and other weaker members in the household.
Q. Tell us more about the mission.
A. It’s more of a powerful passion and hopes that we can one day conscientize every Indian—however hopelessly ambitious that may sound.
But yes, we have no illusions about anything changing overnight. This is a lifetime project. a project of several lifetimes. The hope is that if we start now, we can reduce the incidence for the next generation and so on.
The aim, therefore, is to conscientize as many people as we can with the objective of insulating subsequent generations from this, well, curse.
Q. Would you enlighten our readers about the process of spreading awareness regarding this mission?
A. There has been some of that, as I mentioned earlier, all thanks to social media. But sadly, not enough. It’s sad—and I say this coming from the same space and industry—that media has not taken up this issue. It’s not like they wouldn’t know what we’re doing. We live in an extremely connected world; so when media can pick up small, insignificant or sordid stories and sensationalise them, why can’t they do something for this which would actually lead to the betterment of society?
It’s a simple chain reaction… If I improve, my family improves, and progressively so does society, country, and world. Whether the world becomes better or worse… it all begins with me!
GAALI-FREE INDIA BOLLYWOOD CAMPAIGN
Violence against women is an age-old problem and tragically one that simply doesn’t seem to be going away. But rather than curse the darkness, one entity has decided to light a single candle by taking things upon itself to sensitise, publicise and amplify the issue, in the sincere hope of bringing about a change in society.
Women have always been at the brunt of all kinds of violence and so much of it stems from a sense of entitlement on the part of a section of the male population. Misguided or uneducated at best, deliberate and perverse at worst, many of them think it is their right to prey upon and harass women.
Gaali-Free India has been at the forefront of the fight against abuse. As the name and tagline (Swachh Bhasha. Swachh Bharat.) suggest, it urges everyone to clean up their language and by extension make a cleaner society, cleaner India and cleaner world a reality.
Launched in 2016 by entrepreneur and communications expert Vandana Sethhi, it has taken social media by storm with creative and high-impact campaigns that endeavour to sensitise people to the ills of language and other forms of abuse.
This latest campaign took the issues of rape, domestic violence and acid attack head on, by leveraging famous dialogues from recent Bollywood films that specifically dealt with these subjects.
Vandana Sethhi summarised the effort: “The campaign underlines that women are not commodities. The objectification and sexualisation of women be it at work, home or on the street has led to a long-drawn war – and we’re throwing our lot into this fight, determined to keep at it until everyone in society is sensitised to the issue. Challenging her modesty, calling her names, stereotyping her… are all forms of violence against women. There is a crying need for people to discipline their actions as well as thoughts about women.”
And what better way than Bollywood to get the message across. The three-instalment campaign contextually borrowed three impactful dialogues and fitted them to three specific issues of violence against women. Each was anchored by an emphatic exhortation: ‘Women are not objects! Discipline your actions, thoughts and words.’
Vandana Sethhi reiterates the objective behind the campaign: “Coming essentially from an advertising and communications background, it might appear that creativity is the goal. But nothing is further from the truth. This campaign – and every other one that goes under the Gaali-Free India banner has only one aim: To raise awareness against the deplorable gaali culture and how this has a direct and undesirable impact on women. This has nothing to do with me as an advertising professional, but everything as a woman.”
The campaign nevertheless benefits from the advertising resources at her disposal. The layout is clean and professional, the platform impactful and the messaging powerful and direct. Between these three communication pillars, it strikes straight at the heart of the issue and right between the audience’s eyes.
The campaign intends to put a mirror up to the face of society. It desires that the awareness be universal – strongly directed towards perpetrators on the one hand, but equally to everyone else, the unspoken message being to not remain neutral in the face of such abuse. And in doing so, return India to its original ethos of being a peace-loving and caring society. Gaali-Free India was literally made for social media.
Its various campaigns have found excellent traction amongst the younger audience who devour social media almost with a vengeance. Equally, albeit on the downside, this is a demographic segment for whom verbal abuse has become a way of life, often aggravated by peer pressure. But, there is hope aplenty! Being highly impressionable, they can be influenced strongly by the good side too. Campaigns such as these, hope to conscientize youth towards correcting themselves and work at being better human beings for the betterment of society and country. Needless to say, the campaign and messaging remain contextual and directed to every other demographic as well.
For the sake of society, country and world – thus effectively for the sake of each and every one of us – we hope and pray that Gaali-Free India‘s efforts reap rich dividends.
Three ad campaigns to watch out for on Republic Day | Indian Television Dot Com
MUMBAI: Marketers are forever in search of new engaging ways to connect with consumers, but consumers, at the end of the day, are people. In India, the word ‘people’ has a varied connotation with the country having a population of over a billion, nestling several languages, religions and cultures. Hence a message targeted at a few million might not connect with the rest.
While the Indian calendar is checkered with festivals that trigger traction from several millions, there are few things that connect the 1.8 billion as one like cricket, a national crisis or even our pride as Indians.
Creatives understand this well, and have time and again thrilled, moved, excited and even tickled us with these instances of Indian-ness. This Republic Day too, there are a handful of brands riding the patriotic wave and delivering some version of the many facets of what makes us Indian. Indiantelevision.com handpicks a few for our readers.
A Republic Day video preaching religious harmony has been done to death and therefore is commonplace. But what about a video that reflects unity of several political ideologies? That is exactly what we see in this 90-second video where actors — who are clearly depicting stalwarts from major political parties in India — join hands to stand up against any threat to the nation. Going on air on 25 January, the ident ‘OneDreamOneIndia’ is sung by JSL Singh and Ranjit Bawa capturing the nation’s spirit of unity and freedom. The ident will be promoted across social media platforms and YouTube. After laughing at several newspaper cartoons that make fun of the rivalry between the national parties, and cracking up at their puppet parodies on television and digital medium, this new initiative from 9XM comes as a breath of fresh air.
Gaali Free India
Our constitution grants us free speech and by virtue of it we are free to use the language we choose, even if it is vulgar. But have we stretched our freedom too far to notice that ‘gaali’ has become part of our vocabulary? A question Water Communications’ founder and director Vandana Sethhi asks the nation through an innovative campaign.
Inspired by Prime Minister’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiative, the campaign gives an interesting spin off and seeks cleanliness in speech.
The tricolour of Indian national flag evokes several emotions. It also carries the burden of several freedom fighters who gave their lives to gift us this day when we walk free with pride. It also carries the pride of the leaders of that time who gave their blood and sweat in building the Constitution. And yet we see many amongst us who take this for granted and bring down the decades worth of effort in a minute by giving into petty temptations. To some, it’s for extra cash, while for others, it might be to save themselves from bureaucratic hassles. This powerful short-film by Videocon created by Rediffusion
Y & R reminds us of the burden of the Indian flag and urges everyone to start changing our mindset, at the same time inserting a message on anti-corruption.