From the global human rights organisation Breakthrough, this information and communication technology (ICT) campaign asks people around the world to share their selfie (a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone often shared on social networking services) as part of this effort to bring home to urban, educated professionals in cities the issue of educating girls in India and how it connects with preventing early marriage. Each such selfie taken in September 2014 and shared with Breakthrough via its website and/or social media will send 10 girls to school, courtesy of the Vodafone Foundation. The campaign's goal is to give 25,000 Indian girls an opportunity to continue their education and delay their marriage.
Selfies 4 School is a participatory ICT project capitalising on the popularity of the selfie in order to raise awareness of a human rights issue and also spark concrete action. Visitors to the Selfies 4 School website can continually refresh the page to see the gallery of selfies being taken and, consequently, the number of girls who will be sent to school to approach the goal. At the centre of the images is Uma, a super-school-going-poster-girl based on an animated character by Priya Kuriyan in a film by Vaani Arora.
There is also a #Selfies4School blogathon with the theme "How has education set you free?", with the 10 best bloggers (submitting their work on September 30 2014) winning Breakthrough merchandise and the opportunity to participate in Breakthrough's future campaigns. Details are available on the Selfies 4 School Facebook page or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
The campaign also involved active, on-the-ground mobilisation through kiosks set up at malls and corporate hubs and other public places, where people could walk in to contribute their selfies. In addition, organisers undertook media advocacy that included the participation of print, broadcast, and internet media to take the message forward.
At the culmination event in October 2014 in New Delhi, the rock band Indian Ocean performed songs such as "Ghar ho sake toh ab koi shammajalayein" to communicate their message: "As a group, we have always been strong advocates for change and believe the situation of girls in our country needs to change. Our music is our way of rallying public opinion for this cause. And the more people that participate, the faster we can bring about this revolution. We owe this to the women of our country."
Girls, Education, Early Marriage
According to Breakthrough, research shows that every second girl in India is at a risk of being married off before attaining the legal age of 18. "If they were to receive education for longer, the chances of their being married off early is significantly lower. We tend to dismiss this as largely a rural problem however, the truth being that early marriage cuts across urban-rural and the rich-poor divides. Early marriage not only deprives a girl child of her rights to education and a better life, but also exposes her to risks such as early pregnancy, death during childbirth and domestic violence to name a few."
Amongst the highlights from the campaign:
- Across 10 days of activation in Bangalore, 2,327 selfies were received. Mumbai logged in 2,177 selfies, and the number of selfies received across Delhi is 1,537 and counting. Through its support of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Educate Girls, which works in several districts of Rajasthan towards ensuring quality education for girls from the most marginalised and under-served communities, Vodafone Foundation matched the pledge of 5,800 selfies to send 58,000 girls to school.
- The online campaign received the support of over 2.61 lakh (a unit equal to 100,000) engaged users.
- The total reach of the #selfies4school campaign was over 194,83,840 (1.9 crore - a unit equal to 10 million).
- The campaign garnered around 50 million impressions on Facebook and over 10 million on Twitter.
- Celebrities like John Abraham, Tisca Chopra, Riya Sen, Raima Sen sent in their selfies via Twitter to endorse the campaign.
Breakthrough and the Vodafone Foundation, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)