Bangalore: As the police and NGOs activists kept their vigil and successfully stopped many child marriages on Akshaya Tritiya on Tuesday, a festival associated with mass weddings, an unusual campaign against child marriage renewed their calls against the same. The most original campaigns among the many against child marriage in India, is “The Girl Store” - which some may say is in bad taste. A Wall Street Journal article takes a closer look a the ad campaign.
Below is the excerpt of their introductory message:
“100 percent genuine girls.
Experience the sensation of buying a girl.”
But as you expect the worst, fearing you’ve come across a child trafficking website – you realize this is just a play on words.
The website encourages visitors to “buy a girl her life back” by purchasing school supplies for her. In turn, this will help prevent “Indian girls being sold into marriage and sex slavery.”
On their site, one can browse through pictures of the girls, all between the ages of 5 and 12, exhibited in a layout similar to that of fashion e-commerce websites.
One can buy the girls items like a uniform ($27), workbooks ($25), a backpack ($20) and a pencil set ($3) from “The Girl Store”. There is also a tutor available, who comes free of charge, to assist the girls who start education at a later age. The U.S.-based foundation recruits teachers from the local populace to help in teaching.
The Girl Store is sponsored by Mahindra Foundation U.S.A and Project Nanhi Kali, an initiative of Indian business tycoon Anand Mahindra. The project is aimed at providing education to girl children and it works with over 20 non-governmental organizations to support around 75,000 girls across the country. The cause is well-intended and noble. But was it really necessary to use sexual allusions to drum up support for their cause?
Sheetal Mehta, the executive director at Project Nanhi Kali explained this as “We wanted it to be deliberately provocative. But we mean well. We aren’t trying to shock somebody, or rather you can say, we are shocking them into doing good.”
Sheetal said that their website received mixed feedback since it launched last year. She added that it didn’t go down well one blogger, for instance, who slammed the initiative as a “Cheap Trick. Bad Message. Questionable Product.”
Mehta said “Some were stunned by the name, some said we are promoting child trafficking. But we are doing exactly opposite. We are saying ‘buy a girl her life back.”
However, overall, she said that the response has been good. She said that since the project first launched last year, they received donations from over 1000 people, enough to sponsor the education of around 450 girls.