Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save the girls, educate the girls) scheme has been something of a success, at least on the awareness front. From using the hashtag #SelfieWithDaughter to getting celebrities on board in spreading the message, the initiative aimed at improving welfare services and education for women has made it mark.
This has also encouraged a lot of others to jump on board in promoting the government scheme, lending their own voices and resources to the plan. Among these is Sunil Alagh, former managing director of Britannia who frequently shows up on news panels defending the Bharatiya Janata Party and Modi.
Alagh has started an initiative called Bethi Padhao Bethi Badhao (educate the girls, give progress to the girls), which so far seems primarily like an awareness and outreach effort. As of now, the Facebook page of the initiative features two bold videos touching the subject of female empowerment.
In the one above, a woman's father-in-law tells her not to act pricey by wanting to go out for a ride on a scooter which her family had given as dowry. "How am I acting pricey?" the woman asks her father in law. "I'm the one who paid the quoted price. I gave you the dowry, which means I've bought your son. Ask nicely, and I might let you use my things, the scooter and your son."
The second one makes a similar point. After the woman's mother-in-law tells the girl she should ask her father to send them a new fridge, she replies saying that he had just sent them a sewing machine. "Will I have to give an EMI every month?" she asks, with her mother-in-law saying yes. "You give instalments on things you've bought, no? That means, I've bought your son."
The text that goes with the videos speaks of promoting education for women, although the ads themselves don't exactly cover that territory. They also head into interesting territory, simply because they tackle the question of dowries, considered a social evil that nevertheless continues to be prevalent in much of India.
The ads, made by Red Carpet Media, have already started to get some flak for acknowledging dowries and even seeing them as a tool for women's empowerment. Most videos, especially from the government, would want to only paint dowries as uniformly bad things. Choosing instead to try turning them from a weakness into a strenght is undoubtedly a bold choice worth paying attention to, especially since it is one that the government would not have been able to say itself.