"Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon - I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything is a multi-media initiative which aims to enhance knowledge and change perceptions and attitudes on women’s empowerment, family planning and the social determinants of reproductive and sexual health. The core of the initiative is a 52 episodes TV soap opera which weaves in these issues [child marriage, age at first pregnancy, sex selection, and quality of reproductive health care] into an entertainment education format." Poonam Muttreja

Panel Discussion: Spotlight on Progress "Brands, Media and Communications: Powerful Tools to Shift Social Norms for Girls"

Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.

Profile of speaker: A featured panelist of this Spotlight session was Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India (PFI), whose presentation was entitled  "Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon - I a Woman Can Achieve Anything". "Poonam Muttreja is the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India (PFI) - a New Delhi-based NGO established in 1970 to promote population stabilization in India and global thinking on population and human development. She also serves as a member of the FP2020 Reference Group - a global initiative to develop a new global architecture for increasing access to voluntary family planning services.

Poonam has served on several government committees including the National Commission on Population chaired by the Prime Minister of India, the Advisory Group for Community Action set up by India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Program Advisory Committee of the National Population Stabilization Fund. She also serves on the Governing Board of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Grassroots Trading Network for Women (GTNfW), SEWA, Ahmedabad, as well as on the General Assembly of ActionAid India.

Prior to joining PFI in 2010, Poonam served, for close to 17 years, as the Country Director of MacArthur Foundation in India. In the earlier stages of her career, she was instrumental in setting up of Ashoka Foundation, India (as its Founder Director), Society for Rural, Urban and tribal initiatives (SRUTI) and DASTKAR - both based in New Delhi. Poonam studied psychology and mass communications in Delhi University and public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has taught courses on grassroots movements in Amherst College and Earlham College in the United States. She lives in New Delhi.

Strategy overview: Ms. Muttreja spoke about PFI’s multimedia initiative titled "Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon - I a Woman Can Achieve Anything", a popular culture soap-opera-style serial (supported by radio, mobile, and interpersonal communication) that aims to "increase women’s agency, enhance knowledge and change perception and attitudes on child marriage, age at first pregnancy, sex selection and quality of care to eventually contribute to improving demand, access and quality of reproductive health services in India." She showed a short TV clip from the soap opera, which is part of a social and behaviour change communication initiative supported by DFID to raise awareness on a range of health and rights issues.

"The programme is screened by the government broadcaster Doordarshan, reaching 90% of India’s population, with over 18million viewers in urban areas alone in the first four months of broadcasting. If one were to include rural viewers who have access to no other channel the numbers increase exponentially. The project also includes radio broadcasts on All India Radio, on the ground communications with communities, clubs, games, and collaboration with big government programmes." All India radio has 157 stations, and the on-the-ground communication methods are reaching 200 community groups in "media-dark" areas. Engagement through mobile phones and Interactive Voice Response Systems to deliver information and provide a mobile platform for sharing feedback received over 300,000 calls in the first 4 months of the serial. These communication outreach strategies work in tandem with national programmes like the National Health Mission and the Livelihood programme. Season 1 of Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon was viewed by more than 53 million viewers across India, and Season 2 has started broadcast in April 2015 with a specific focus on adolescent health and community action for change. The serial can be viewed by clicking here.

From DFID's One Year On document on Population Foundation India's work: "In many parts of India, even today a girl child is seen as a burden and not worth investing in. Ending child marriage is a matter of women’s rights, health and gender justice - of treating women with dignity and equality. Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, a trans-media initiative launched by PFI, aims to increase women’s agency by enhancing knowledge and changing perceptions on social determinants of health, as well as by challenging social norms around early marriages, first pregnancy, spacing between births, contraceptive use and sex selection. Using a 360 degree communication approach, the intervention has reached out to intended audiences through TV, radio, mobile and an intensive outreach through NGO partners in five districts each of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. 429 viewers/listeners groups have been formed in villages and urban slums of the two states. The end line evaluation of Season I of the drama series has revealed a positive change in the community post exposure. Awareness of Child Marriage Act among all the three target groups (married men, women and unmarried youths) in the exposed group increased from 73% in the baseline to 86%."

Overview of this Summit session: From the Girl Summit summary document: "New and traditional media, brand platforms and communications strategies are proven tools that have triggered discussions and shifted perceptions. Speakers will give examples of how these tools are being used to change how girls see themselves and are perceived in their communities, as well to elevate the dialogue on key issues to national levels and beyond."

The speakers, in order of appearance, are:

Susan Shabangu, Minister of Women in the Presidency, South Africa.

Daniela Colombo, President, AIDOS - Italian Association for Women in Development.

Dr. Ben Cislaghi, Director of Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning, Tostan.

Bruktawit Tigabu Tadesse, Co-founder, Whizz Kids.

Efua Dorkenoo, Programme Director, End FGM/C Social Change Campaign.

Poonam Muttreja (Executive Director, Population Foundation of India.

Kate Wedgwood (Country Director, Girl Hub Rwanda) .

Dr Amal Mahmoud Abdalla (Secretary General of National Council for Child Welfare).

The session is moderated by Eric Levine, Interim CEO Stars Foundation."

Footage of this (available below) and other "Spotlights" are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.

The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.


DFID Girl Summit Outcomes website and the Society for Rural Urban & Tribal Initiative (SRUTI) website, both accessed on August 18 2015, and email from Poonam Muttreja to The Communication Initiative on August 25 2015. Image credit: PFI

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