Changing the Prayer and Praying for Change
Media associated with this campaign
Overview of this campaign
Despite women proving themselves equal and in numerous instances, superior to men, ‘gender equality’ continues to be something that we still need to fight for, ask for, pray for. The cases of oppression of women that make it to the headlines every day and the countless others that do not - form only the tip of the iceberg. Even where gender discrimination is not blatant, undercurrents of preference for the male gender over the female are rampant.
Looking deeper, at the core of the problem is a certain mindset that is shaped by various societal norms and religious practices that people grow up observing and following.
Durga Puja –a religious festival worshipping Goddess Durga for five days -celebrated by millions of Hindu (particularly Bengali Hindu) people worldwide, is more than just a festival. It is an emotion that is very close to people’s hearts. In the prayer to the Goddess, there is a chant ‘Putran Dehi’ which means 'bless us with SONS'. This stated preference for sons being a part of a sacred religious prayer, in a way, validates the deeply entrenched bias in favour of the male gender. We felt that change must begin here and suggested changing the chant to ‘Santanan Dehi’ which means 'bless us with CHILDREN' – not sons specifically.
It was a daunting task to try and change a religious prayer chanted by generations through centuries. Nonetheless, with a lot of courage, conviction and a sense of responsibility, we decided to take the initiative to bring about the much-needed change.
We did not really look at numerical targets.
However, considering the sensitivity around religion, we believed that being able to implement this change in 10 prayer venues (Puja pandals) would be a huge achievement.
We had created a platform for people to show their support to the initiative (by voting online or by giving missed calls on a phone number). Getting a total of 200,000 votes/missed calls would signify a commendable success for our campaign.
Results for this campaign
Durga Puja being a festival of the masses, we tried our best to reach maximum number of people using a mix of traditional and digital mediums.
- We organized meets with priests and prayer committees to explain the need for this change.
- Celebrities voluntarily came forward in support – we shared their message online as well as on a leading regional Television News Channel.
- For our digital audience, we created a microsite and used social media.
- Popular RJs spoke about it on a regional radio FM channel.
- We carried out awareness activities at big residential complexes and at outlets of a leading retail chain reaching many festive shoppers.
- We created a platform for people to show support to the initiative by voting online or giving missed calls on a phone number.
The resistance was big. The support much bigger.
People from all walks of life including celebrities, prayer committees and priests came forward in huge numbers to support the cause.
The word spread like wildfire.
What started as a local initiative gained global support.
People from different countries shared videos, posts and messages lauding this initiative and chanted the new mantra in their prayers during their observance of Durga Puja.
While we had started with the hope of implementing this change in 10 prayer venues, 150 came forward and joined us. This new chant was chanted in 150 prayer venues by 300 priests and millions of people.
We had expected a maximum of 200,000 votes (online and missed calls combined) in support of our campaign - we got a total of 533,666 votes.
The REAL SUCCESS of the campaign was however, in being able to bring about a change in a religious chant of centuries within a month – with people across the world voluntarily coming forward to embrace this change. A religious prayer that has been chanted by generations through centuries changed for the first time in history to make way for gender equality.