Mar 19

Femvertising – for women or for profit?

By Zandra Nilsson

After the international movement #metoo the world has opened its eyes for women and their gender-based challenges. Many other movements and hashtags have started to support women’s rights after the campaign. People are now talking about feminism more than I ever heard or experienced before. Feminism has become more mainstream and appealing to a wider audience –which is a benefitable in marketing purposes.

Have you seen Nike´s “Dream Crazier” or Gillette’s “The best men can be”? I have to admit that both of those adverts gave me goosebumps. But just after seeing them I started analyzing my feelings. I felt emotional and happy that these adverts highlighted women’s rights. Nonetheless, what in the world does that have to do with Nike and Gillette? If I buy their stuff, how will that help the society to become more equal? Nike and Gillette are far from the only brands who are using the so called “femvertising”. Other brands such as Always started the campaign #Likeagirl, CoverGirl launched the campaign #GirlsCan and Dove #RealBeauty. Marie Clair, Brewdog, Vodafone, Bodyform, Always, Smirnoff and Spotify, Dove and Wrangler just to mention a few others.



“Feminism is not about individual women, it’s about a collective and communities. Advertising can’t speak to collective politics because it’s about the individual consumer,” – Sarah Banet-Wesier, author and professor of media and communication at the London School of Economics. She spent five years researching about ”popular feminism”.

Feminism has become a tagline. Profiting from this idea and ideology could be seen as misuse – not empowering. Especially since consumers from the Millennial generation prioritize “a good cause” when they choose their brands. But, could the commercial advertising bring some good? Even if their main purpose is for consumers to buy their goods, could they bring us one step closer to a more equal society after all? Watching advertisings about female power will get people talking and maybe give hope. I believe the first step towards change is to talk about it.

On the other hand, if the companies actually want to make a change shouldn’t they act differently? How about: instead of spending incredible sums of money on commercial production make a change for the long term. Change your suppliers to a company ran by females? Give a percentage of the profit to feminist organizations? Make sure that all female employees get the same salary as the male employees? A good example of a brand that I think has succeeded with this is the Swedish Coffee brand Zoegas. Since 2011 they have been buying all their coffee beans from female farmers in different African countries. They use the hashtags #changingcoffee and #coffeebywomen.

In conclusion, I believe the use of female power in a commercial use could be good as long as it really makes a difference for women. If it only gives profit for the brand, it’s just misuse of an ideology because feminism happens to be “trendy” now. Even if the advertising gives me goosebumps.


Mar 19

16 days of activism against gender-based violence

by Zandra Nilsson

During the recent years voices of victims of sexual violence and abuse have been heard through movements such as #MeToo #TimesUp and ”NotOneMore and many others. One might say that we finally have reached a point in history where women no longer will be silent. Because of stigma and shame many women have not shared or reported their experience before, even though violence against women is very common – one out of three women worldwide from different age groups, class, race and social status experience gender-based violence. Their stories need attention.

Orange the World: #HearMeToo

Since 1991 a yearly campaign called “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” has spread worldwide. These campaigns are ongoing from the 25 November (the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women) until the 10 December (the Human Rights Day). Behind the campaign are UN Women (UNiTE) and Women’s Global Leadership Institute. The campaign of 2018 considered how big impact social media and hashtags have made and therefore focused on a hashtag and the importance of sharing a story. 2018’s campaign was called “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”.

The Orange the World: #HearMetoo campaign have 95 000 followers on Twitter and more than 203 500 followers on Facebook. And on Instagram more than 29 000 have used the hashtag. Additionally, the campaign offers more sharing online than social media. On the campaigns webpage anyone can easy share their own story – with only using 8 words. It results in small, poetic “postcards” for the readers to share.

Just as the previous years, the color orange is part of the concept throughout the campaign. The color is symbolizing a brighter future and a world free from violence against women. This means that people are encouraged to ware orange and buildings will be lit up and decorated in the color.

Purpose and result of the campaigns

During these 16 days partners to UNiTE are encouraged to host events for local, national and global feminist movements, women human right defenders and create opportunities for dialogue between activists, the public and policy-makers. Moreover, the purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about gender-based violence all over the world and establish a clear link between local and international work to end gender-based violence. Plus, create tools to pressure government to implement commitments to eliminate gender-based violence. And also, to demonstrate solidarity of women around the world protesting against violence against women.

In total more than 6000 organizations in approximately 187 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaigns since they started in 1991 – and reached over 300 million people.

Mar 19

Struggling farmers go online

by Zandra Nilsson

In the last year farmers have been protesting all over the world. In November 2018 tens of thousands Indian farmers were marching outside the parliament in Delhi to mark the agrarian crisis – it was the fourth farmer’s protest in the past one year. Half of India’s population works on farms even though farming only contributes to 15 % of the country’s GDP. The past years the productivity has declined and now the demonstrators asked for a higher crop price and loan waivers. At least 300,000 farmers have killed themselves since 1995 because of the crop failures in combination with struggles to pay back debts to banks and money lenders.

“Due to social media, there has been an increased awareness about farmers’ issues in Delhi,” says Monami Basu, a Delhi University professor who is also participating in the march.

Not only in India are the farmers unhappy about how much the government pays for their goods. Shepherds in Sardina, Italy, have in the past month been posting on social media how they pour out milk in the streets. A young farmer started the hasttag #iostoconnando (translated to I am with Nando) after he posted a video online spilling liters and liters of milk on the ground in a protest over the fall in prices. Together with the video the viewers could read the common motto “I’d rather dump it than sell it for next to nothing”. The video spread virally, and many other farmers started pouring out the milk and post about it. Last year the price for sheep milk dropped from 0.85 € per liter to 0.60 € per liter and now are the farmers protesting to get the price up to at least 0.70 € per liter.

Also, in June 2018 farmers in South Africa were protesting and marching on the streets. For five months the tariff for sugarcanes had been cancelled and 85 000 sugarcane farmers were scared of losing their jobs. The Department of Trade and Industry did not want to re-instate the sugarcane fare. This would resolve in a lower price for importing cheap sugarcanes instead of using the ones produced locally.

Female farmers suffer the most

Oxfam International is right now doing a campaign to highlight the farmers situation. They write:

“Behind the food we buy are millions of people who grow, catch and process it, passing it along a supply chain until it ends up in our homes. But in a global food industry worth trillions of dollars, far too many of the women and men behind our food are being forced into lives of hardship and suffering, working long hours in inhumane conditions for little reward.”

Women are the ones suffering the most from these inhumane working conditions, because they have most of the lowest paid jobs with the least security and are exposed to gender discrimination. About 80 % of the world’s food productions are made by small-scale farms and out of those 43 % are women in developing countries. In some countries, for example in South Asia, women are even the majority. Women get less access to land, loans and machineries and on top of that women are many times also taking care of the domestic activities such as cooking and cleaning.

Technology for Africa’s agriculture

Agriculture is Africa’s biggest economic sector and the producing is getting close to the same level as South America. Around the continent farmers want to boost their harvests and make the labor less exhaustive. Therefore, the tech companies are investing and developing apps for the agriculture industry. According to experts half of Africa’s population will have Internet access by 2025 and that could increase agricultural productivity with 3 billion dollars a year. Some of the apps focuses on helping the farmers to increase productivity, while others help them to connect with other farmers or suppliers without any middle hands. Others help them to access information about market prices, so they won’t be tricked by companies who try to offer them less money for the crops.

“The benefits of using the farmers’ app include the empowerment of women and the marginalized and the production of more and a more diverse array of produce. We can give farmers extension services, market information and a clear open trading platform for the value chain” says Mwila Lando, a young Zambian entrepreneur who designed the app Farmers Basket. 

Downsides with apps

The idea of technology helping farmers in developing countries – especially female small-scale farmers – sounds like a great tool and aid. But there are downsides that still needs to be considered. First of all, in six years half on the population will have access to Internet. That simply means that there still many, many farmers without Internet access. In order to understand the statistics better we can compare Africa’s access to Internet with Europe’s: were already 87 % of all house hold had access to Internet in 2017. Secondly, women are not at all taking part of this technology the same way as men for several reasons. Almost two thirds of the worlds 781 million illiterate adults are women. To be able to use most apps, you must be able to read. Additionally, recent studies show that women are 10 % less likely than men to own a mobile phone and, in some regions, such as South Asia, women are 26 % less likely to own a mobile then men and therefore 70 % less likely to have access to Internet.

In conclusion, even if the apps can be helpful, we still need to keep searching and fighting for a better answer to the gender equalization for the female farmers in the developing countries. If the world could equalize the number of crops produced by women to the same as men produce, the world hunger would decrease by 17 %.

Mar 19

Non Una di Meno – the reason why Italy striked

By Zandra Nilsson

For the third year in a row Non Una Di Meno organized a strike and demonstration on the international women’s day on the 8th of March. Public transports, schools, health services and hundreds of other public and private workplaces got affected in Italy by the strike. People travelling to Italy from abroad got affected too since pilots, flight attendants, airport ground staff, ferry employees and employees of train companies were joining the strike which delayed the international traffic. Non Una Di Meno, a women’s movement, was organizing the strike action and the so called grassroot trade union responded to their call. In the evening hundreds of thousands gathered in the bigger and smaller cities across the country to demonstrate against gender discrimination, violence against women and the unequal working conditions. And many directed their anger to the vice prime minister Salvini and the government’s anti-feminist policies. According to the organizers themselves more people are joining for each year and the demonstrations are getting better and better organized.

Non Una Di Meno translates to not one woman less, that indicates that not one more woman should be murdered by men. The group originated from the Argentinian group Ni Una Menos that started in October 2016 after the murder of the 16-year-old Lucía Pérez. The group spread around South and Central America: Mexico, El Salvador, Chile and Brazil and also further international. The Italian organization spreads their messages and reaches out to their supporters through blogging, social media and using the hashtag #nonunadimeno. Their Facebook account has over 85 thousand followers and almost 40 thousand users have used their hashtag on Instagram.

“We strike because they kill us, at home or on the streets. We strike because they pay us less, because they exploit us and discriminate against us” specified activists from Non Una di Meno.


Violence against women

In 2017, 121 women got murdered and 59 % of the cases showed that the killer was a current or former partner. 44 % of adult women in Italy have experienced sexual harassment and 4 261 cases of sexual violence got reported in 2017 – where 54 % of those took place on the street or in a car. And those are only the reported cases…

Unfortunately, the injustice does not end with the statistics. How are men punished for the violence against women? A couple of days ago two convicted rapists were cleared of their charges in Ancona, Italy. The men were convicted in 2016, but Italy’s highest appeal court ordered a retrial of the case. During the investigation several doctors had clear evidence that the victim’s injuries were consistent with rape and in her blood, they found traces of a date rape drug. The judges still found a reason to free the men – the victim was ”too masculine” and therefore not attractive. “The photograph present in her file would appear to confirm this” one of judges said during the trail. The men were free to go.

Non Di Una Meno also fights for the right to access a safe and legal abortion. Abortions in Italy are not illegal, but the doctors have the right to deny to carry out the procedure. According to Italy’s health minister over 70 % of Italy’s doctors are objecting abortions and in some areas the rate is over 90 %. Looking at other countries in Europe the rate for denying abortions is very different: 6 % in Germany, 3 % in France and it is 0 % in Sweden and Finland. One case was reported where a woman in Padua got turned down from 23 hospitals! The Italian General Confederation of Labour describes the abortion process as dangerously long because it forces women to turn to private structures or do unsafe abortions.


Low gender pay gap – but women need to be working to get paid

Italy can proudly say they have the second lowest gender pay gap in Europe – with “only” 5,3 % lower hourly pay for woman than men. But if we take a closer look at the Italian gender equality there is nothing to be proud of. The truth behind the good number is: Italy has fewer women in the workforce than almost all the other developed country – less than half of working-age women in Italy has an employment. Lack of education is clearly not the excuse for this since 59 % of bachelor’s graduates and 52 % of PhD grads were female in 2017.

If we keep looking at the statistics it gets clearer and clearer that the low gender pay gap has nothing to do with gender equality in Italy. Only 16 % of decision-making bodies around the country was made up by women. The board members of companies are 33 % today, after Italy introduced a new ration that demands 33 % of the board to be female. Just 31 % of the last parliament was female. Furthermore, when asking women about sexual harassment, 9 % answer that they have been sexually harassed or sexually blackmailed at their working place.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2017 Italy is placed as the 82nd most gender equal country out of 144. And looking closer at the economic participation and opportunity it is ranked as the 118th. Unfortunately, the situation for the women in Italy is only getting worse – 2016 it was ranked in 50th place. Therefore, Non Di Una Meno is more important than ever before and their strikes and demonstrations are helping to bring attention to women’s rights – in a country that is considered among the most economically developed, but still has such a long way to go before reaching a true gender equality.