By Wanda Beauman
For me, one of the most moving presentations at the 57th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was “Ring The Bell.” This initiative is unique because a custom of people in India is being used to help men and women become partners in the fight to end violence against women. People in India often ring a neighbor's doorbell to ask for tea or sugar. In the “Ring the Bell” initiative, this custom is being extended to interrupt violence. When a persons hears the sounds of domestic violence, they are being asked to ring their neighbor's doorbell. This interrupts the action, and gives a chance for calming down, makes rescue possible and encourages the perpetrator to rethink his actions.
Last year, the initiative sponsored the “One Million Men, One Million Promises” campaign for International Women's Day, March 8. This campaign is ongoing. Individuals and organizations can sign on at https://breakthrough.tv/ringthebell. Learn more about the origins of “Ring the Bell” in the article below.
Ringing in Change
As originally published in the Bangalore Mirror, November 17, 2013
By Sindhuja Balaji
“Ek cup doodh milega?” said Ryan, a young advertising executive during a brainstorming session at Ogilvy for a campaign to promote awareness on domestic violence. Sonali Khan [vice president of Breakthrough TV] was immediately struck by an idea—the act of ringing a doorbell and asking for tea or sugar from a neighbor is a typically Indian trademark. That’s when Bell Bajao was born, which urges people to ring the doorbell to put an end to domestic violence in households.
“The bell signifies a warning, an alert. It’s also symbolic of breaking silence,” she explains. Khan says the team came up with several examples, but she insisted that the involvement of men be kept central. During her research, Khan found that men were actively involved in eradicating this evil. “By 2008, 22 percent of men and 25 percent of women felt that domestic violence cannot be ignored for fear of courting trouble—a significant jump from 8.5 percent men and 9.6 percent women across the same demographic earlier.”
She says, “We had several calls and emails from across the country. After the campaign went viral, there was a 15 percent increase in action and awareness about the issue.”
The Bell Bajao campaign bagged 25 awards including a Cannes Silver Lion, and had UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon as its first global ambassador. Globally, it is known as Ring The Bell, and has a presence in China, Pakistan, Uganda, Vietnam, Canada and Bangladesh. “We still get calls and requests from people across the country. This sustained support encourages the team to carry on.”