To communicate our message of taking a stand against forced dowry, we utilized a medium that is directly applied on a person's hand: henna.
In the Indian subcontinent, forced dowry is a practice in which the groom's family coerces the bride's family to pay the groom in material goods. Failure to match this expectation frequently results thousands of brides being victimised through domestic violence and in many cases, even leading to death through murder or suicide.
In Pakistan, the custom is practised by all classes, and national laws against it have been unable to stop people from continuing to pressure women to submit. UN Women's goal was to create awareness around the evils of this practice by starting a national movement against it, and expose it for the stigma it is.
Describe the creative idea.
In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, machismo is all-important. To call dowry-demanding men out, we decided to hit them where it would hurt most: their male ego and sense of self-respect. In Pakistan, a law is less likely to stop a man than an insult to his manhood, and that's what we targeted.
We coined a new word for the act of demanding dowry, "Jahezkhori"; which compares in English to an abusive phrase such as "Dowrymongering." We then used one of the most recognised symbols of marriages in the country to disseminate the message: hands decorated with henna.
We designed a special typographic treatment embedded in a pattern commonly used by henna artists, which through a highly integrated campaign became the rallying cry for our message: "Stop Dowrymongering."
Describe the strategy.
From the start, we knew that simply reminding men of the law against forced dowry would not be enough. We had to dig deeper, and shake a sense of self respect. For the Pakistani man, his honor is his most important asset, and strategically we decided to aim for a message that would connect with the consequence of losing self respect than of breaking the law.
Our target audience was not only men, but parents of grooms-to-be, who usually demand dowry under pressure from society. Our strategy then was to change that perception from one of respect to insult. Anybody demanding dowry from hereon would be known as a Dowrymongerer.
Describe the execution.
Millions of Pakistani women decorate their hands with henna during the wedding season - this is a practise that goes back centuries and symbolizes happiness and fertility. We used this as the symbol for our protest: a hand extended out in an appearance that says "Stop," but with a message embedded within that henna: "Stop Dowrymongering."
Custom-designed stamps were mailed to celebrities who posted images of their extended palms dressed in henna - even men joined the protests. An online stencil was available for downloads. Using the medium of henna as our base, we designed 500 individually crafted posters which were illustrated by henna artists. These posters were strategically put up at retail locations that deal in wedding goods.
Special tags were designed for retail stores to display on items that are usually bought for dowry: furniture, electronics, jewelry etc.
List the results.
The campaign became the most trending topic in Pakistan during the wedding season. Thousands of women - and men - put up images of our symbol in protest. All the major national news channels carried the campaign on the news.
BBC called the campaign "Instrumental in sparking conversation around the issue." A total reach of 495,000,000 resulted in about $2,100,000 of earned media, all organic.
News reports started coming in of parents canceling weddings when anybody put up a demand of dowry. A cultural shift had started to take place.
The most impactful result for the campaign was a statement issued by the Islamic Council, by far the most influential body in Pakistan, that forced dowry is unIslamic. Several clerics joined in the condemnation, further making the act a matter of not only losing self-respect, but also classifying it as a sin.