Celebrating 20 years of Breakthrough.
  • 1999

    Babul Music Video.

    Babul was a beautifully shot, stirring music video that explored the reality of domestic violence behind the façade of modern society through the eyes of a young girl. The idea behind the video was to bring out conversations on domestic violence into the mainstream when the issue of domestic violence was hardly ever spoken about in public. It was always considered a “domestic issue” which did not require or deserve any external intervention.

  • 2005

    What kind of a man are you.

    The campaign focused on use of condoms within marriage. Where the discourse was around feminisation of HIV infection and women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. The campaign addressed the male audience, directly asking men to use condoms and act responsibly to protect their partners/spouses from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. It also tried to educate women on the need to negotiate condom use as a means to protect themselves.

  • 2007

    Is This Justice?.

    Breakthrough developed a multi-media campaign, ‘Ye Kaisa Insaaf Hai?’ to bring public attention towards growing incidences of stigma and discrimination faced by women living with HIV/AIDS, most of who have been infected by their husbands or male partners. The women are either shunned by the family and community or are forced to live on the periphery of society after the death of their husbands. The increase of HIV/AIDS amongst women is another manifestation of women’s unequal status in society. The consequences of contracting HIV/AIDS is severe – women face homelessness, increased violence, loss of jobs and families and lack of access to treatment and care. This sensitive yet potent campaign was developed pro bono by Piyush Pandey (Executive Chairman Ogilvy & Mather). It included TV and radio spots, and print ads in four languages: Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and English.

  • 2008

    Bell Bajao.

    Our ‘Bell Bajao!’ campaign launched in India in 2008, was a cultural and media campaign that calls on men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence. The campaign seeks to reduce domestic violence against women and to highlight the role that men and boys can play in reducing violence. Bell Bajao’s award-winning series of PSAs has been viewed by over 130 million people. The announcements, inspired by true stories, showed men and boys stepping up and ringing the bell to interrupt overheard domestic violence. In 2010, Breakthrough’s video vans traveled 14,000 miles through cities and villages screening these PSAs and involving communities through games, street theater and other cultural tools resulting in a sustainable, on-ground process of transforming hearts and minds.

  • 2011

    Nation Against Early Marriage.

    In 2011, Breakthrough launched its campaign on Early Marriage. Subsequently, in 2013, the first United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against child, early, and forced marriages was adopted; it recognizes child marriage as a human rights violation and pledges to eliminate the practice as part of the U.N.'s post-2015 global development agenda. In 2013, this campaign was rechristened ‘Nation Against Early Marriage’.

  • 2012

    Mission Hazaar.

    In response to the 2012 census, which saw the sex ratio of India fall from 927 to 919 girls per 1000 boys, Breakthrough launches the #MissionHazaar campaign, which is subsequently adopted by the Government of India in 2015 for its Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign.

  • 2012

    #AskingForIt and #ShareYourStory.

    In 2012, the violent gangrape of ‘Nirbhaya’ shocked the nation. In an era of outrage and calls of change, Breakthrough launched the #AskingForIt and #ShareYourStory campaigns. The #AskingForIt campaign raged against victim blaming whereas the #ShareYourStory campaign encouraged women to share stories of harassment with their sons, so as to generate empathy in them.

  • 2013

    Streelink Programme.

    Acknowledging the rampant sexual harassment at the workplace and the lack of redressal mechanisms for the same, Breakthrough launched a pilot programme of intervention among women garment factory workers in Bangalore, Karnataka. After this, we launched the Streelink programme in Delhi NCR with garment factory workers in 2016.

  • 2016

    Nari Shakti Puraskaar.

    Breakthrough was awarded the Rani Lakshmibai Award for Best Institution for Research & Development in the field of Women Empowerment by then President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Our programme to prevent sexual harassment was a national programme that caught everyone’s attention after the insights from our survey “Harassment in Public spaces and the domestic sphere” were published in a popular daily newspaper. As part of this programme, we launched campaigns like “Asking for it”, “Share your Story with your Son” and “Make it Safer” that continued to engage audiences on the issue of sexual harassment.

  • 2017

    JPAL Evaluation of Taaron Ki Toli in Haryana.

    One of our effective initiatives Taaron Ki Toli, a school-based curriculum was designed to promote systematised awareness about gender-based discrimination and its forms amongst adolescents. The programme was rolled out in 150 government schools of Haryana and aimed to create a positive shift in the behavior and attitude of the students by reinforcing and enabling them to question prevailing gender norms in their families/communities.
    After a successful run of 3 years, our program got evaluated by the global research centre Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and we saw that both the gender attitude index and the gender behavior index have shifted significantly for students who are recipients of our programme.

  • 1999

    Mann ke Manjeere .

    Mann ke Manjeere was an album, music video, and ultimately an entire campaign that promoted women's claiming of public spaces. Mann ke Manjeere: An Album of Women's Dreams launched Breakthrough as a human rights organisation. It tells the true story of Shameem Pathan, who courageously broke out of her abusive marriage and became a truck driver to support herself and her child away from her violent husband. It won the 2001 National Screen Award in India for best music video and nominated for MTV's 'Best Indipop Music Video'. The full campaign, focused on promoting women's rights and bringing attention to domestic violence, was based on the music video and album. It reached 26 million households via six satellite music television channels, effectively mainstreaming discussions about domestic violence issues throughout South Asia and reaching as far as Tajikistan, Indonesia and the United States.

Popular culture to counter culture .

“We start where people are, but don’t accept that culture is ever an excuse.” Mallika Dutt, Founder and President Emeritus, Breakthrough.

20 years ago, Breakthrough started its journey to change the narrative on violence against women and girls and other human rights abuse across India and US to create a world where everyone lived a life with dignity, equality and justice. Mallika Dutt, the founder of Breakthrough felt that human rights issues needed to be translated into a cultural context so that even those people who aren’t interested can be reached. How best can you reach them but through a music video? Promoted by Virgin Records, “Mann ke Manjeere” spoke about a woman who walks out of a domestic violence situation and becomes a truck driver, it became a dream where everything was possible. And for a long time after that, she and the production team were talking about women’s rights and violence against women in mainstream media.

It was this insight that built the foundation of Breakthrough – that if we do not transform the dominant culture around us, if we don’t challenge those values that uphold violence, discrimination and abuse, then we won’t be able to build a world we dream of and desire. One of our most successful campaigns, Bell Bajao, asked men and boys to take action against violence against women – not to ignore it, but to interrupt it. It tried to change the narrative where violence against women and girls is seen as a woman’s problem into one that is everybody’s problem. We did this work in India at two broad levels – we created compelling and cutting-edge mass media campaigns that reached a large number of people across the country and we engaged in grassroots mobilisation with young people and community leaders.

Bell Bajao went through the roof – it won close to 20 awards. It reached more than 130 million people via television, mass media, and video vans which traveled the country. Violence against women became a story line on three popular Bollywood soap operas. “Bell Bajao” was the answer to a question on India’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” TV programme. It was picked up in China, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Canada, among other countries.

But most importantly, a lot of men came up to us and said it’s the first time they’ve ever been invited into this conversation as part of the solution. It saw 49% rise in the awareness of the new domestic violence law that was passed in 2005 and it raised demands for services by 15%.

It was when we were doing the end-line of this campaign that we realised that women least equipped to combat domestic violence were the ones that were married off as young girls. This made us lower the age of our target group and we started working with adolescents in the 11-18 age group. We started big, worked with 18,000 girls and boys across 150 government schools across Haryana, one of the most gender regressive states in India. Armed with an impact evaluation of this programme by JPal at MIT, which saw significant changes in behaviour and attitudes not only among girls, but also among boys, we are now scaling up our work with adolescents, both in school and out of it to reach 400,000 of them currently.

We believe if we are to create a world where violence against women and girls are to become unacceptable, that we should concentrate on building this new leadership because the solutions that we need for our planet are going to emerge from this next generation of leaders. We at Breakthrough believe this is going to be the generation that finally makes violence against women and girls unacceptable. This is going to be the generation that will shift these old norms, attitudes and values and push society to see one another as human beings that deserve respect. This new generation will really think about how we can build a society, an economy and a world where human dignity is central to how we operate and move forward.

From a small group of committed people who began their journey in India, Breakthrough is growing – we are a team of over 140 people across 3 centres in India. We have a sister concern in the US that works on culture change by using a potent mix of media, arts, and tech with an inter-sectional feminist approach. We have a huge online voice in both the countries that fronts important issues in the lives of women and men in the 21st century. As the internet user-base grew, we realised our work on online violence against women and girls became critical especially in India. The solution we propose starts with creating safer spaces online and offline both for women and girls.

We want to reach 1 million adolescents with our programme on gender equity by 2023. It is with immense pride that I look back at all that we have achieved and all that we are going to achieve. And I feel confident that with Breakthrough we will be able to enable everyone to own the solutions and really participate to make changes; we will be able to work with everyone to make violence against women and girls unacceptable. I take this opportunity to thank each and everyone who has been our allies and partners throughout our journey. I also welcome you all to join us in our endeavor to make violence against women and girls unacceptable.

Sohini Bhattacharya,
President & CEO

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