‘Bell Bajao’ Blog Campaigns Address Domestic Violence in India

By Makepeace Sitlhou, Womens Feature Service

What could a chewing gum, a telecommunications service and a social cause campaign have in common? The answer is a globally renowned ad campaign called “Bell Bajao.”

“Bell Bajao” ad campaigns is recently quoted by “The Indian Express” daily as the three most globally acclaimed advertisements.

It’s not very often that social message campaigns like “Bell Bajao” which encouraged men to raise their voices against domestic violence. “Bell Bajao” has been an initiative with a cause right from the time it was launched in 2008.

If the success of any campaign is dependent on the number of people it reaches out to, then “Bell Bajao” has passed the test with flying colors. It has touched over 130 million people and has become a metaphor to end abuse in any forms.

Breakthrough is another human rights organization which has successfully broken into mainstream platforms and redefined social messaging. Sonali Khan, Country Director, Breakthrough, who spearheaded the campaign, believes that the role of social media is critical to take on the social normative values at a big scale.

The ads features popular film star Boman Irani. Bell Bajao has been particularly influential across the nation and around the globe.

With the trend of internet, the organization has hopped on to the social media bandwagon to keep up with the trend. But while most are still learning how to use the online space, the Bell Bajao website has been an interactive space where inquiries are attended and responded sice 2008.

With Bell Bajao, Breakthrough has carefully experimented with a variety of popular social media tools to raise awareness and engage audiences in an open dialogue on an issue that continues to be perceived as a private affair.

Its earliest initiative is the the Bell Bajao blog. It is a user-generated platform that encourages the exchange of opinions, studies, experiences or personal stories on issues ranging from gender and violence to sexuality.

Khan illustrates how blogs and social networks can potentially make real life impacts. She said they recieve emails from people in distress, who share their stories and ask for help.

Although the campaign does not depict women or girls ‘ringing the bell’, the Bell Bajao! blog features testimonies from women who have taken action by ringing the bell.

But sustaining the audiences’ engagement on an issue like domestic violence goes much beyond a blog. The educational approach is the key as people need to be equipped with the requisite knowledge of legal instruments such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA)of 2005. Moreover, sustained participation can only be achieved through activities that are fun and not always serious activism.

A “Resources” section has been provided on the Bell Bajao website where people can learn more about domestic violence. They can be oriented on how to help a victim and look up helpline numbers. They can even download the training toolkit to become a “Rights Advocate” or read up on the research on domestic violence internally monitored by Breakthrough.

Breakthrough partners with Lawyers Collective. It is an initiative that empowers women through law. Breakthrough has developed a Google map which identifies existing Non- Government Organizations (NGOs), government officials, police stations, protection officers and advocates. They can provide immediate help to women facing violence.

Another initiative to map the change in attitude will be a hip looking bus that will take a road trip across India with the message of ‘Bus Karo’ to domestic violence. People will be challenged to come up with witty and humorous lines to take the slogan forward. The best ‘Bus Karo’ lines will be voted and chosen on the basis of the number of ‘tweets’ and ‘likes’ they get.

According to Khan that the the mobile blogging platform will meet that online-offline integration as it will involve the direct participation of local voices in advocacy efforts around domestic violence. Breakthrough’s mobile project is inspired from a Los Angeles-based project called Mobile Voices.

UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon has also endorsed the Bell Bajao campaign on a global platform.