If acts of heroism make a hero, then why do we only think of men wearing capes when we think of heroes?
The Times of India asked this question to its readers in Kolkata, launching Times Women Heroes — an endeavour to celebrate extraordinary achievements of ordinary women from all walks of life and uncover their inspiring stories of trials, hope, and success.
Looking for heroes
The campaign asked Kolkata for stories of women heroes who inspire readers the most, meeting with stupendous response from Kolkatans. These stories won the hearts of many women in Kolkata.
The campaign first created awareness through print communication in The Times of India, calling for entries from and about women doing exemplary work to celebrate their service to society.
This was no regular call to action, as a unique avatar of womanhood was created — of women, in their traditional garment — saree flying behind them like a cape, standing tall against the changing Kolkata skyline.
The image and content powerfully reminded people, “Not All Heroes Wear Capes,” asking the people of Kolkata to look for the heroes amidst them, promising to award and publish the stories of the 15 best entries.
A surprising 621 nomination entries came in of women making their mark across a diverse range of fields:
- A teacher of law imparting bureaucrats and men in uniform the gift of vision, even though she’d lost her eyesight at age 6.
- An advocate for the disabled working to change the narrative from charity-based to rights-based advocacy.
- A child born to the red-light district of Kolkata, who turned messiah for the hundreds of highly vulnerable children of sex workers across Kolkata.
- A doctor who gave up a flourishing career in the United States to come to Kolkata and be a mother to differently abled, abandoned children.
- A cyclist, an Olympic shooter, a wildlife conservationist, and countless others. Each story a jewel in the cap of Kolkata, India, and womanhood.
Indeed, Kolkata had found her new heroes.
The new face of heroism
And just that easily, the campaign set out to change the notion of what the face of heroism looks like and who deserves to be deemed hero — including the so far excluded women.
We aimed to engage the people of Kolkata, spreading the word and pushing women’s stories of heroism forward.
It didn’t end there, though, as what is a hero without her army?
Our goal was to get people to join the cause to encourage more heroes to emerge to achieve even more. That meant garnering volunteer registrations to support the causes of the selected heroes.
Kolkatans threw themselves into the task of finding themselves these new heroes.
For a local campaign, with 4 million reach, we received engagement of more than 0.2 million — a 5.5% conversion rate, one that beat many national campaigns. TOI recorded a jump in women’s readership by 2.8%, according to IRS 2019 Q2 results. And TOI successfully recorded an increase in brand affinity of 31% and brand equity scores by 77%.
It didn’t stop there, as 1,313 women came forward to volunteer their support to the causes of their selected heroes. And soon, this took the shape of a woman-to-woman movement.
The chosen heroes were celebrated at a grand event, which in itself was nothing short of awe-inspiring as Kolkata’s biggest female stars — Agnimitra Paul, Minu Budhia, Arpita Chatterjee, Sohini Sengupta, Bula Chowdhury, Tanusree Shankar and Alokananda Roy — came out to honour our heroes.
TOI continues to keep the wheels rolling, publishing the inspiring stories of these heroes, shining the spotlight on them so they stand as the icons of our times and continue to inspire millions of other women like themselves.