SAHWIRA AFRICA INTERNATIONAL’S REPLY TO PLAN INTERNATIONAL FINLAND’S LETTER OF RESPONSE DATED 22 MAY 2018
MR. OSSI HEINÄNEN 15 June 2018
Chief Executive Officer
Plan International Finland
SUBJECT: SAHWIRA AFRICA INTERNATIONAL’S REPLY TO PLAN INTERNATIONAL FINLAND’S
LETTER OF RESPONSE DATED 22 MAY 2018
Dear CEO Heinänen,
This is a response to your letter dated 22 May 2018, wherein, you address SahWira
Africa International’s petition against Plan International Finland’s “Maternity wear for a 12-year
old” campaign. We appreciate the clarifications you have made; however, we notice that you did
not address all the points we raised in the petition, namely, our demands for the returning of the
awards/prizes and for the conduct of a roundtable discussion with other campaign petitioners.
Furthermore, there are points in your letter that we find problematic, hence, need further
clarification. We raise the issues below.
We would like to clarify that we are not criticizing Plan International Finland’s basic
mission, and efforts at drawing attention to global issues such as teenage pregnancies per se. The
subject of our critique is the manner by which you drew attention to the issue, and how Plan
International Finland executed its campaign on teenage pregnancy. Thus, the public apology we
demand is concerned specifically with this campaign- a public exhibition of images of a 12-year old
black African girl child’s pregnant body in shop windows, on billboards, in short videos/film, bus
stops and other public spaces in Finland. SahWira, as well as other organizations and individuals,
find that the images racializes, eroticizes and sexualize the African girl-child, and violate the girl-
child’s right to privacy and dignity. You denied this critique without substantiating why you think
your campaign is not racializing and sexualizing the black-African Zambian girl. Therefore, we ask –
what is your organization’s understanding of racism, racialization and sexualization? How does
such a representation of child-mother Frida and her unborn child that born in September 2017
work towards these two children’s best interest? Unfortunately, an apology cannot be forced and
made without an earnest understanding of the aforementioned concepts and of the critique at
We acknowledge that you have given an apology for the white savior complex in the
videos and you have removed the videos. Thus, you have accepted that the campaign was not
good, thus, the campaign does not deserve prizes for creativity and building social cohesion in society.
In your letter, you mentioned that Plan International Finland secured the services of
artists and marketing professionals to realize its campaign on teenage pregnancy. Even if that is
the case, Plan International Finland has the ultimate responsibility for its launching and campaign.
The awards/prizes won by your organization represented by Eva Antiila and your partners (who
are Meeri Koutaniemi, Paola Suhonen and hasan & partners) were based on Plan International
Finland’s campaign on teenage pregnancy. For that reason, you cannot just distance yourselves
from the meanings and ethical implications of these awards/prizes.
You also emphasized the involvement that Fridah and her family have had in the
making of the campaign. May we point out that involvement does not always mean full consent;
also, consent/involvement is mediated by racialized power relations and through language. In
what language did you write the consent document, and how did you secure consent from Fridah
and her family; what is the extent of their involvement in the conceptualization of the campaign;
to what extent did gratitude for Plan International influence Fridah and her family to give their
consent? We also ask – if the campaign is indeed a collective effort by Plan International Zambia,
Plan International Finland and its marketing partners, by Frida and her family and community, how
is it that the awards were only given to Plan International Finland, Meeri Koutaniemi, Paola
Suhonen and hasan & partners?
In relation to your response that Fridah and her family were not given monetary
compensation because they live in a community supported by Plan, we question the ethics of
making a specific 12 year old pregnant child work (and thank Plan International) on behalf of her
community. Why is Plan Finland now playing mothering role of deciding Fridah and her child’s
future, why this paternalistic attitude? Was Fridah and her family actually consulted and given a
chance to choose the form of compensation that can work best for Fridah and her future? In
contrast, how much did you pay Meeri Koutaniemi, Paola Suhonen, and hasan & partners to
execute the campaign? If they were not paid, even in that case, they still benefitted from
marketing themselves and their work from the body of a 12-year old black African child.
We reiterate our calls for Plan International Finland to do the following: (1) issue a
public apology about the campaign, (2) give back the awards/prizes that Plan International Finland
and its partners received for executing the campaign, even if they are symbolic- returning them
will dissuade others from doing the same, and also . In addition, address SahWira Africa
International’s co-petitioners through a roundtable discussion. , and to re-examine its thinking and
practices towards a non-racist, non-exploitative and non-sexist ways of doing development work.
We looking forward to the resolution of this matter and to a more productive discussion with you.
Dr. FAITH MKWESHA