In India, every year over 2 million children die of easily preventable diseases before they reach the age of five. The country has the highest child mortality rate among commonwealth nations. As part of its global ‘Every One’ campaign, Save the Children (STC), the international NGO, sought to prompt Indian leaders to accelerate efforts to control child mortality.
THE CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVE
STC’s ‘Every One’ campaign in India aimed to influence the Government of India to increase the national spend on children’s health.
Research firm Synovate was commissioned to help identify the potential target audience and how particular media might be effectively harnessed for a social campaign. Among other findings, Synovate’s assessments revealed that (1) Young adults and youth icons or celebrities are particularly action-oriented, social-media-savvy, keen to express their opinions and quick to join collective movements; (2) The print and broadcast media, though reluctant to cover a grim issue like child mortality, would report the subject if prominent public personalities were involved; (3) Citizens strongly felt that the close involvement of government influencers / officials was essential as the ultimate power to reduce child mortality lay with the Indian government and policymakers.
The Synovate findings shaped the decision to build the campaign around three strategic pillars:
• Engaging government influencers to rally government decision-makers
• Building a coalition of influencers (youth icons, Bollywood actors, celebrity mothers with young children, and social activists) to give the campaign popular appeal, and create pressure on policymakers
• Creating a wave of public concern about child survival
During March–November 2010, ‘Every One’ galvanized the three identified advocacy groups into action:
The campaign began with leading government influencers and public figures sending an open letter to the Finance Minister, demanding increased spending on children’s health. Soon afterwards, the Chief Minister of Delhi, the Health Minister and various international ambassadors publicly voiced their support for ‘Every One’. To boost the campaign’s visibility and power of advocacy, STC hosted a national civil society consultation on child mortality. Attended by over 120 policy-oriented stakeholder groups, the consultation prompted the government to include several recommendations (relating to children’s and women’s health) in its planning process. The crowning point of government influencer engagement was reached at an STC-organized ‘public hearing’ in Delhi: 400 underprivileged people shared their heart-wrenching experiences before a panel that included a Supreme Court Advocate, senior members of the Planning Commission (PC) and health experts. The hearing concluded with Dr Sayeeda Hameed, Chairman of the Planning Commission, committing to include maternal, newborn and child health as a priority in the government’s 12th Five Year Plan.
Celebrities and Public Personalities
On Mother’s Day, eminent women from the worlds of media, literature, film, fashion, politics and law united to pledge their support to ensure a health worker for every mother and child. The renowned actor and social activist Shabana Azmi drew attention to a recent STC report titled Women on the Front Lines of Health Care, called for the training and deployment of more female health workers to save the thousands of young mothers who die in childbirth, and launched a Mother’s Day online campaign dedicated to the cause. Popular Bollywood actors and youth icons such as Kunal Kapoor (an STC cause ambassador), Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone vigorously endorsed ‘Every One’ at film promotions and other events, and used social networks to promote the movement, leading to an overwhelming number of online pledges of support from fans. Corporate Voice | Weber Shandwick had built an advocacy group comprising young celebrity mothers, and requested them for photographs of themselves and their children, along with their response to a new STC report titled A Fair Chance at Life. Their outraged reactions to the report’s findings and their photographs were shared with the media, generating prominent feature articles about STC’s movement. Finally, support for ‘Every One’ went global when the celebrated filmmaker Gurinder Chadha made a powerful and moving short film about STC’s mobile clinics in Delhi that was screened at the Asian Awards 2010 in the UK.
The public articulated its support for ‘Every One’ by signing pledges and participating in various events around the country. These included postcards calling for increased investment in child health that were collected from different cities and sent in bulk to the Prime Minister’s Office, an STC awareness run in Jaipur, and mobilization activities at schools and colleges across India that led to enthusiastic pledges from students. A climactic expression of public support was the grand ‘Make Noise’ concert in Delhi – aired live on several television channels – at which 100 musicians and a vast audience jointly voiced their solidarity for ‘Every One’.
• Demands for increased government funding met with victory. ‘Every One’ received unequivocal support from the Planning Commission, and the Finance Minister announced that the 2011 Union Budget would include a 20% increase in the national spend on children’s health (taking the spend to about 2% of India’s GDP).
• In eight months, an overwhelming 500,000 people participated in the campaign by attending events or pledging their support.
• Over 185,000 postcards were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, calling for immediate action.
• ‘Every One’ made a huge online impact, with twitter and Facebook messages from various celebrities generating 265,000 positive responses.
• Almost 14,000 young campaigners at schools and colleges registered their support for the campaign
• International awareness and support was generated for the ‘Every One’ campaign in India when Gurinder Chadha’s documentary film was screened in London at the Asian Awards 2010, raising donations of over £100,000 for STC’s work.