A group of angry-looking men surround a woman seated alone in the desert, and proceed to "stone" her … with flower petals, in a striking (no pun intended) new campaign by United Colors of Benetton in support of UN Women (the United Nations agency that promotes gender equality and empowerment of women), launched to commemorate the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25).
The campaign takes Benetton's communications down a new and unconventional path, symbolically representing the deconstruction of stereotypes and prejudices, calling for an end to the culture of violence and strongly affirming that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities in society and in life. It also seeks to highlight the urgent need for men and women to think and act together because, in the words of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel: "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence helps the tormentor, never the tortured."
“We know that the pandemic of violence that affects 1 in 3 women and girls can be stopped. But we cannot do it alone. We need partners who help us raise awareness and promote a culture of zero tolerance toward this pervasive human rights violation,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “Benetton is such a partner. Their campaign, launched on the International Day to End Violence against Women, supports our global efforts. We appreciate this commitment to the cause.”
Fabrica has also designed an art installation, Facing, formed of a series of metal plates that represent — in a "positive" light — the faces of women that have been assaulted and disfigured; acid is used to create beauty, not to take it away, as in real life. These works will be put up for auction in 2015 and the proceeds will be donated to UN Women.
While acid and stones could act as uncomfortable metaphors for violence against women, the campaign serves as celebration and warning at the same time, and confronts us with the question of why women are so often the victims of violence rather than subjects of respect.
November 25 also marked the official start of the Orange Days, a 16-day initiative of UN Women, ending December 10, in honor of the battle for women's rights, with events held all around the world.
With the creation, in 2011, of the UNHATE Foundation — the heart of Benetton Group's social activities, which seeks to promote a new culture against hate, in particular among younger generations — United Colors of Benetton's campaigns have called millions of people around the world to action through the use of digital platforms and applications that stimulate discussion on the web of the topics covered in the Group's campaigns. On December 10, the UNHATE Foundation will open its UNHATEnews.com digital platform to contributions from young people from all over the world, aged 18-30. Here they can upload self-produced “news” stories they wish would come true on contemporary issues deemed of global importance and which align with the UN's MDG and post-2015 Development Agenda (including development and the environment; the fight against terrorism; and sustaining democracy and human rights, and in particular, women's rights). Of the 100 most popular "news" items, 10 will be chosen by the UNHATE Foundation and — in collaboration with UNDPI — to be developed into sustainable projects in 2015.
Earlier this year, the collaboration between Benetton Group, the UNHATE Foundation and UN Women resulted in the Safe Cities Free of Violence Against Women project in the city of Kigali, Rwanda. It is part of a UN program, in five cities around the world, to combat violence against young women with an artistic and creative approach. This collaboration will continue in 2015.
Benetton Group isn't the only brand to engage with Millennials through a digital platform in an effort to drive change: In October, a coalition of brands including Unilever, BT Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Marks & Spencer and Carlsberg launched Collectively, a nonprofit editorial platform that celebrates and connects the people, places and cutting-edge ideas that are leading the way to a better future. Its goal is to engage and showcase the efforts of a global Millennial audience that is already starting to make life choices that strengthen society and minimize their environmental impact — and help make sustainable lifestyles the new normal.