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Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jayegi. This statement has to be one of the worst, perhaps the most damning, maliciously untrue reasoning put forth to clip the wings of little girls’ ever-slim chances of getting an education in India. ‘Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jayegi’ implies that you shouldn’t educate your daughter too much – or even at all — or you will lose control over her, as she will get a mind of her own, etcetera etcetera. I don’t know if anyone can ever capture the complete import of this terribly wicked utterance, but you know that this is embedded in everyone consciousness.
How do you fight the falsehood of a deeply embedded negative cliché like Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jayegi? Impossible to mention this phrase without bringing up all the negative anti-girl-child-education thoughts, right?
Well, one of India’s most respected business groups, and definitely the one that’s been most – and emotionally — invested in the cause of educating the girl child, didn’t think so. The Mahindra Group and Project Nanhi Kali decided to take it head-on. You see, the group, which set up the Nanhi Kali initiative nearly 22 years ago, has a socially motivated Group Corporate team that keeps an ear to the ground, as it were. No, this time, literally. For, over a recent six-month period, they noticed that in as many as 8 million conversations on social media, the single most noticeable topic, one that caused great angst, was the cause of girl-child education.
So they decided to take the issue head-on, with a brilliant campaign film named it #LadkiHaathSeNikalJayegi,
Now wait. If you haven’t already watched it, watch this beautiful little film.
OK, wait till you can recover from the rash of feel-great goosebumps. This will take some time…. in fact, watch the film again. I’m saying that even though I know you’ve probably already clicked on the replay icon.
Now think of the film, and see how simply they broke down the daunting task of tackling an extremely – perhaps the most — deeply socially entrenched obstacle to the education of the girl child.
- Grabs the issue by the scruff with an emotional appeal, driven by the love of a caring, doting father for his cute-as-a-button little daughter.
- The father is taking his little daughter on the handlebar of his bicycle to her school, when he is accosted by some occasional – yes, they are everywhere – inherently forbidding by outwardly smiling bhaisahab, an older person, who warns him not to educate his daughter too much, or Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jayegi!
- But the film establishes how respectfully and with a smile, the girl’s father folds his hands to the bhaisahab, thereby rejecting his wrong ‘advice’, and perhaps for the first time, we hear, in the sweet baby chat of his daughter, the one voice that’s always left unheard in such discourses – that of every little girl who’s denied education. At that point, the brilliantly cast charmer of a little girl will make you want to get out in front of any group supporting education for the girl-child…
- And support the caring father who’s voicing his dreams for his daughter. Dreams that can only come true if he continues to help his little girl fly on the wings of education.
Ladki ke haath kaamyabi tab aayegi,
Jab ladki haath se nikal jayegi
I think this is a monumental film. Extremely well scripted, cast, styled, shot and edited. And therefore extremely impactful. A tour de force indeed, from FCB Interface. The kind of film that deserves to be on every little smart- and feature phone across the length and breadth of the country. Because it completely puts paid to the age-old menace of the term, Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jayegi, to which the beautiful conversation between the little girl and her father provides a completely new perspective. The erstwhile, unreal, imagined dangers of the term are turned upside down. To obtain all the great benefits of education, it is best if Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jaaye. Argue with that!
Conceived and scripted by FCB Interface, the film, says FCB Interface Chief Creative Officer Robby Mathew, “is an ode to the unsung heroes who reject our society’s patriarchal mindset and encourage their daughters to fly. It is a celebration of a girl child’s dreams and her father’s determination to make it happen. It changes the meaning of this often-used phrase ‘Ladki Hath Se Nikal Jaayegi’, and instead uses it to make a case for putting her destiny back into her own hands.”
A semi-urban setting was chosen for the film to ensure relatability, given that these beliefs exist not just in rural India, but also in cities. And the Virendra Saxena-voiced sign-off message will clinch it in the most rural of areas too.
Several surround activities are planned to spread the word and create a movement to support the cause. These activities will celebrate women who have achieved greatness by taking that crucial first step. These women will be both from outside Mahindra, as well as inspiring stories of real Nanhi Kalis of Project Nanhi Kali.
Sheetal Mehta, Senior Vice President- CSR and Executive Director, K.C. Mahindra Education Trust, said, “With over two decades of experience in educating girls, Project Nanhi Kali has sufficient evidence that education is the only tool which enables girls to rise from a life of poverty, and go on to live a life of dignity. The objective of this campaign is to change attitudes towards girls, by giving a positive perspective to the phrase #LadkiHaathSeNikalJayegi. We hope that every Indian citizen, will not only view this film, but also help spread awareness and contribute to this worthy cause.”
Vivek Nayer, Chief Marketing Officer, Group Corporate Brand, Mahindra Group, said, “Mahindra is a socially responsible and trusted brand but with our RISE philosophy, we not only want to do good in the community, but also aim to inspire others to do good in order to drive societal change. This is the heart of Mahindra’s ‘Rise for Good’ campaigns. With the #LadkiHaathSeNikalJayegi campaign we’re turning this phrase on its head into a message of positive empowerment for girl child education and their ensuing success.”
Project Nanhi Kali – great emotional investment
Enterprise must be emotionally connected with and invested in the society it flourishes in, and the people who contribute to its coffers to keep it viable and help it flourish. That, to my mind, is the least any business can do to repay for the oxygen of its ecosystem. While there have been a few CSR initiatives that have walked that talk, none, in my view, has done so with as much purpose and dedication as one that was rolled out not one, two, five or ten years ago, but more than two decades ago, to educate the girl child, the Nanhi Kali. Yes, it’s a subject and cause that’s very close to one’s heart, but it’s also been one that’s demonstrated the care and commitment of a massive business group, now one of the top ten entities of India, the Mahindra Group.
What has shone about the concept is the care and foresight that went into its creation. Anand Mahindra didn’t just want to help in the mission to educate the girl child, he also wanted to make it a contributory initiative – because he realized way back then, that for it to succeed, Nanhi Kali would need to be seen as much more than the CSR initiative – however heartfelt — of a single entity. It would need to be emotionally ‘owned’ by as many common people as possible, and so it was important to co-opt everyone into it by making it a sponsorship-driven mission. Now that takes some vision, and that vision has been steadily bearing fruit over what, 22 years, now?
A Nanhi Kali sponsorship makes for a wonderful gift for any occasion. By gifting a Nanhi Kali sponsorship to your friend or relative, you will ensure that an underprivileged girl will receive educational support for an entire year. Under this scheme, Project Nanhi Kali will inform your friend of your kind gesture, and also send them details and photo of the girl supported as well as academic progress reports. You will receive a receipt that you can use to claim tax exemption. From every donation, only 5% of the funds are retained by the charity for administrative, marketing and fund raising costs; the remaining 95% is utilized exclusively towards the Nanhi Kali project expenses. From www.nanhikali.org
Since 1996, Project Nanhi Kali has empowered over 350,000 girls, including 153,999 girls in this past year alone. This massive undertaking was made possible thanks to over 4,560 Community Associates who tutor the Nanhi Kalis for two hours every day, 6 days a week through the year, working across 5,262 Academic Support Centres in remote, tribal and rural pockets, as well as urban slums in 11 states of India.
The objective of the latest Nanhi Kali campaign from the Mahindra Group is to increase awareness and encourage more and more people to join the movement.
Possible future themes for social upliftment
And now to share some more information on the detailed social media listening exercise on social issue that the Mahindra team conducted. Girl child education was among the most talked about issues online. And focus group discussions highlighted that it was a common desire among parents to be protective of the daughter. Even working mothers felt the need to restrict their daughters’ movements. Another insight was that men often self-appointed themselves as protectors of women. A third was that even today, there is an accepted belief that certain jobs are for women, and certain jobs aren’t.
One is sure that the Mahindra Group and Project Nanhi Kali will take all these aspects head on. Education and awareness, with the motivated support of young Gen Z-ers and Millennials will be crucial in spreading the good word to dispel the darkness of traditionally parochial, narrow mindsets.
I cannot help but recall another social campaign, this one about daughters. Why does it come to mind? Because it seems now, even though it appeared before the Mahindra Group-Nanhi Kali #LadkiHaathSeNikalJayegi film — to be the best ‘after’ film. Not just for the benefits of education for the girl child, but also to nudge society another significant step further to consider daughters as good as if not better than sons. Remember the Star India campaign featuring Aamir Khan as the small-town sweets-shop owner? Here it is, once again. I think they belong together.