Imagine a world where being born a girl is treated like a disease, spreading across communities. In this world, girls are scooped up for having the wrong genes. That is, just for being girls.
That’s the dystopian vision presented in Girl Epidemic, an eerie video that seeks to shed light on the fact that, in many ways, we already live in that dystopian world. More than a million girls disappear every year—many of them into sex slavery or victims of infanticide, all because families think life will be easier with male children. The project, created by the Nanhi Kali foundation, is looking for donations to improve girls’ lives through education.
It’s a vital mission: In India overall, only three out of 10 girls who start school will graduate from 10th grade. The benefits associated with fixing this problem and making sure girls receive education are numerous: reduction of child and maternal mortality, improvement of child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates, and improvement in economic production. Moreover, says the foundation, the benefits in the form of reduction of abuse and exploitation of females are huge.
The Girl Epidemic PSA shows communities where anti-girl violence currently takes place. The slums of Mumbai, India, weren’t always the easiest places to shoot, says the director, Indrani. "One of the challenges with shooting this in India is that dealing with a place that is so highly populated, with people rushing to see what we are filming. It can be very challenging to have space to shoot in."
The film stars girls who are at the foundation-supported school, and Indrani says that their natural optimism bubbled over. "It’s a really scary concept, this epidemic where the girls are being chased, but getting them not to smile was a huge challenge. They understood the stakes for girls like them, but these girls are really happy kids. It was challenging to portray the alternative, what the situation would be if they didn’t have their school and support."
StrawberryFrog, an advertising agency, helped shape the video, and has worked with the Nanhi Kali foundation in the past. From a donation-based online film series called A Girl Story to The Girl Store which brings allows viewers to buy a girl her life back before someone else takes it, the idea is to shock people into action.
"I did a lot of research to find a nugget that can be super-simple that simplifies a complex problem—in this case, it’s about girls being pushed out of society just for being a girl," says Justin Via, associate creative director at StrawberryFrog. "The idea we came up with is that girls lack a Y chromosome, and that makes them diseased somehow."
As with any epidemic, there’s a solution lurking in the wings. "We don’t want to be provocative just to be provocative," says Via. "The cure to the girl epidemic is education, and we’re out to promote it."