Leo Burnett India’s campaign promoting period education among Indian girls, The Missing Chapter won the Grand Prix award in the Sustainable Development Goals category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 24. Created for Procter & Gamble’s sanitary napkin brand, Whisper, the campaign scored big under Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good Health and Well-being, outshining 18 other campaigns winning in the Sustainable Development Goals Lions category.
Beyond brands and creative agencies, the award is being seen as a success on multiple fronts—education on key, ignored issues to the power of creative communication, the change companies can bring in Indian society and our collective role in achieving the SDGs, to name a few.
“A Grand Prix for Whisper ‘The Missing Chapter’ is a massive win, but winning it in the category of Sustainable Development Goals is right where we want our work to shine. At Leo Burnett, we believe that creativity can transform human behaviour and our work for Whisper does exactly that—spreading period education to help girls stay in school. As I always say, the only way to predict the future is to build it yourself,” told Rajdeepak Das, CEO & Chief Creative Officer, South Asia, Leo Burnett, in an interview.
About 23 million girls in India fall off the education system after puberty every year due to the lack of period education. A related reason was the absence of toilets, as pointed out in a 2017 study that found that 23 percent girls drop out due to lack of toilets in schools.
Considered a taboo subject, no one in India, not even mothers, talk about it. For the same reason, no school ever imparts education on periods, says the advertising agency. Not only girls, but Indian women throughout their lives suffer from ‘period poverty’—a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. The World Bank says, at least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management.
The Missing Chapter
The Leo Burnett Mumbai campaign was part of the #KeepGirlsInSchool movement by P&G’s Whisper sanitary pads. The campaign aimed to increase awareness about the need for period education in schools.
The Missing Chapter explained how slips of red paper with basic period education—translated into 28 native art styles and languages—made their way through schools, communities and news channels all over the country to regularise period education.
The campaign attacked the gap that exists in school education on girls’ health. The unique concept, beating deep-rooted stigmas and impact created on the ground helped the campaign become the best of the campaigns in the Sustainable Development Goals category.
“We applaud their commitment to challenging the cultural stigmas and misinformation,” said jury president Kimberlee Wells, CEO of TBWA\Melbourne, who described the campaign’s results as “significant … that’s the power of what our industry can achieve.”
The list of awardees in the category of Sustainable Development Goals Lions has won Gold.
One campaign is of Tide, Turntocold (Saatchi & Saatchi New York), that encourages Americans to shift to cold water while washing clothes as this can reduce energy use by 90 percent.
Plastic Fishing Tournament (We Believers for AB InBev/Corona) focused on the Plastic Fishing tournament held on 12 June in Mazatlán, a Mexican resort town in the state of Sinaloa, where Corona Beer, in partnership with local recycling company México Recicla and environmental organisation MazConCiencia, challenged local fishermen to retrieve plastic from the Pacific ocean in return for a cash prize.
The third Gold went to See My Skin (Edelman for Vaseline) campaign, which challenges systemic racism and deep-rooted healthcare inequalities in the US by creating the world’s first database designed to search for conditions on skins of colour.
With fast realisation and acceptance, menstruation has become a subject of research and action in India and globally. While The Missing Chapter is now being read, books like Period Matters: Menstruation in South Asia pitch for cases like paid menstrual leave, and The Period Passport: Conquering Period Poverty connects “Dads and Daughters” on better period management.
In terms of solutions, WhatsApp users can now track your menstrual cycle via period tracker chatbot and help you track your periods, conceive and avoid pregnancy. Then, there are sustainable period care brands like The Flex Co. and products like Period Panty to make the “days” bearable. Brands like Nua are coming forward to help women survive dysmenorrhoea–the condition that almost all women endure month after month–period pain.
The writer is a media professional based in Delhi. She has been writing on diverse subjects, including sustainable businesses, environment and climate change, health and education and others.