Cannes Lions

The Zero Tolerance Ribbon

IMPACT BBDO, Dubai / 28 TOO MANY / 2019

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Overview

Background

Female Gender Mutilation, or FGM, is the inhumane practice of cutting or removing of the genital organs on young girls. It is generally carried out with the belief that it will preserve the purity of the girl. FGM can cause severe bleeding, complete loss of sensitivity, complications during childbirth, infertility, severe pain during sex, infections, sepsis and in some cases death. FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights. It reflects deep-rooted gender inequality, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. More than 200 million females have been subjected to FGM globally. But with a prevalence of 87.2% in a population of over 100 million, Egypt has the greatest number of FGM victims globally. Despite repeated governmental efforts to raise awareness about the harms of FGM, it continues to be widespread among Egyptians- simply shifting the performing the procedure from traditional practitioners to health professionals.

Idea

Years of awareness communication had left many well aware of the dangers of FGM, but instead of opting to not perform it on their daughters, people shifted from having the procedure done by traditional circumcisers to health professionals who were often willing to break the law. A real behavior change was needed, a movement. Every movement needs an icon to rally behind, to unify and to drive forward. But unlike most causes, FGM had no icon to symbolize it. We aimed to

create a unifying symbol that people would not just recognize as an element of awareness around FGM, but that also gave people a voice to say ‘No’ to the inhumane practice. Taking the universal shape of the Awareness Ribbon and turning it on its head to create a powerful statement that literally spelt out the word ‘NO’ in Arabic.

Strategy

As widespread and damaging as the issue was, we realized a simple truth, if we could create a real impact, FGM could disappear in one generation. And in order to effect behavior change, we had to create an impact on those directly responsible for making the decision of performing this mutilation on the young girls- their parents. We knew that although these parents were in fact horribly mutilating their daughters and damaging them beyond repair, in their own way they were doing so thinking they were doing what’s good for their daughters. We knew that to affect them effectively, we had to do so at a moment were they at their most emotional and aware of their daughters vulnerability in their hands- when they first held their newborn daughters.

Execution

We launched the movement on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by attacking the practice further upstream than anyone had before. We partnered with local hospitals to reach the parents of newborn girls, who were brought out to their parents with the pin proudly displayed on their chests, loudly protesting against the harmful effects of FGM. Along with the pin, the parents were educated on the harmful physical, psychological and social

effects of Female Genital Mutilation on their daughters. They were then encouraged to protect their child's rights by signing a pledge to never perform the procedure on her.

Outcome

570 million global media impressions. Over 1000 + pledges have already been made. Over 50 global NGO’s have adopted the symbol 9 countries officially using the ribbon. The initiative was presented at the HQ of The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conference in March 2019 where 100 of NGO's have been made aware of the Ribbon and multiple organizations have committed to put it forward as part if their own communications going forward.

The FGM community now have their own symbol to rally behind and speak with one voice

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