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
hand.

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.

Sincerely,

Dr. FAITH MKWESHA
Executive Director

Plan International Statement

Plan International Zambia is aware of concerns that have been raised about Plan International Finland’s campaign on teenage motherhood featuring a girl from Zambia.

The advocacy campaign ran in Finland in 2017 for three weeks.

We are closely engaging with relevant government line ministries over the concerns raised and considering the matter thoroughly. We will respond in due course after concluding our discussions with the government.

About Plan International:

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.
We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.
We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 75 years, and are now active in more than 70 countries.

About Plan International Zambia

Plan International has been working in Zambia since 1996. We work in 35 communities focusing on education, health, water and sanitation, youth economic empowerment and child protection.

Yours Sincerely

Lazarus Mwale
Head of Communications
Plan International Zambia

Zambian Watchdog: Plan International abusing pregnant Zambia minor

https://www.zambiawatchdog.com/plan-international-abusing-pregnant-zambia-minor/

Plan International abusing pregnant Zambia minor

In order to highlight teen and child pregnancies in Zambia, Plan International devised a media campaign that in their view brings attention to the scourge.

Plan International, despite being known for advancing children’s rights and equality for girls is however promoting  this campaign in a shameful way.

A pregnant 12 year old Zambian girl, named Fridah, was made to wear sexy clothes by a Finish designer and took romantic pictures of her by a Finish photographer

This pictures were then circulated in Finland and to create a so called campaign against child pregnancy.

The young girl was made to pose sexually in the manner of fashion photography.

They produced romanticized pictures of child pregnancy for the campaign to in their view “shock Finnish audiences”, to raise awareness.

This resulted in the images of a pregnant Fridah, as a 12 year old African child exhibited at bus stops, in the windows of shops, and other public places in Finland.

Surprising Plan International even won an award for this abusive campaign.

Where are the child and women campaigners?

Where are the campaigns against abuse and exploitation?

Zambian Observer article: Plan International Undress Pregnant 12 Year Old Girl, Uses Her To Raise Funds But Dump Her

https://www.zambianobserver.com/plan-international-undress-pregnan-12-year-old-girl-uses-her-to-raise-funds-but-dump-her/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Plan International Undress Pregnant 12 Year Old Girl, Uses Her To Raise Funds But Dump Her

 

In order to highlight teen and child pregnancies in Zambia, Plan International devised a media campaign that in their view brings attention to the scourge.

Plan International, despite being known for advancing children’s rights and equality for girls is however promoted this campaign in a shameful way.

A pregnant 12 year old Zambian girl, named Fridah, was made to wear sexy clothes by a Finish designer and took romantic pictures of her by a Finish photographer

This pictures were then circulated in Finland and to create a so called campaign against child pregnancy.

The young girl was made to pose sexually in the manner of fashion photography.

They produced romanticized pictures of child pregnancy for the campaign to in their view “shock Finnish audiences”, to raise awareness.

This resulted in the images of a pregnant Fridah, as a 12 year old African child exhibited at bus stops, in the windows of shops, and other public places in Finland.

Surprising Plan International even won an award for this abusive campaign.

Where are the child and women campaigners?

Where are the campaigns against abuse and exploitation?

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THE MAST: Plan’s ads of pregnant Zambian girl posing cause outrage in Finland, social media By Oliver Chisenga on May 29, 2018

https://www.themastonline.com/2018/05/29/plans-ads-of-pregnant-zambian-girl-posing-cause-outrage-in-finland-social-media/

Plan’s ads of pregnant Zambian girl posing cause outrage in Finland, social media

 

A DEBATE has erupted over a pregnant 12-year-old Zambian girl who was made to wear “sexy” clothes by a Finnish designer who took the pictures.

The story, which has drawn mixed feelings on social media, is one that cannot be ignored.

Social media pundits and various women have condemned the act, saying the child – identified as Fridah – had been set up to be exploited by those that arranged the photo shoot.

Others are worried that while Plan International got a prize for the “abusive campaign”, Fridah was not paid at all.

Zambian actress and radio presenter Lungowe Simbotwe was among the first to register her displeasure on social media.

“A pregnant 12-year-old Zambian girl, Fridah, was made to wear sexy clothes by a Finnish designer and took romantic pictures of her by a Finnish photographer, went back to Finland and created a campaign against child pregnancy. The young girl was made to pose sexually in the manner of fashion photography. They produced romanticised pictures of child pregnancy for the campaign to shock Finnish audiences, so these images of a pregnant 12-year-old African child were exposed and exhibited at bus stops, in the window of shops etc in Finland. Fridah and her family were not paid anything; even the clothes they gave her to wear they got them back afterwards. Plan even got a prize for this abusive campaign. This is unacceptable,” stated Simbotwe.

Others said the campaign did not look like it was against child pregnancies but more about making money at the expense of the innocent child.

SahWira Africa International founded by a Zambian in Finland Dr Faith Mkwesha and allies got together and demonstrated in Helsinki a few weeks ago.

 

However,  Plan refused to apologize and give back the prize, which was what the demonstrators demanded.

They had been challenging the Finnish branch of Plan International, a “development and humanitarian organisation” that is supposed to advance children’s rights and equality for girls.

Plan Finland created a campaign against child pregnancy and to do so, they had Finnish designer Paola Suhonen create a line of clothing for pregnant children.

 

They then found Fridah, a 12-year-old Zambian who is pregnant, made her wear the clothes, that they unfortunately took back afterwards and had Finnish photographer Meeri Koutaniemi take pictures of her.

Commenting on the campaign, Dr Mkwesha said, “I urge you to ask yourselves these questions: Why was I not immediately outraged when I saw the 12-year-old black African, heavily pregnant girl-child, Fridah, posing in pastel-coloured maternity clothes, in quite a sensual manner, in the Plan International Finland campaign advertisements meant to raise awareness about child pregnancies, placed on billboards, streets and public transport spaces all over Finland? Why was I not outraged when I found out that two white women, the Finnish fashion designer and film director Paola Suhonen, and renowned photographer and photojournalist Meeri Koutaniemi went to Zambia, Africa, to shoot photos and videos of the traumatised black girl-child meant to cater for the white European gaze?”

Decolonial International Network Supports SahWira Africa Petition

https://www.din.today/news/din-supports-campaign-sahwira-africa-international-against-plan-international

A campaign against the exploitation of African children to raise money for white saviours

Why was I not immediately outraged when I saw the 12-year-old black African, heavily pregnant girl-child, Fridah, posing in pastel-coloured maternity clothes, in quite a sensual manner, in the Plan International Finland campaign advertisements meant to raise awareness about child pregnancies, placed on billboards, streets and public transport spaces all over Finland?”, asked Dr. Faith Mkwesha, Executive Director of the non-profit organization SahWira Africa International and researcher in gender studies at Åbo Akademi University. The advertisement campaign was awarded prizes for best advertisement.

SahWira Africa took a bold step to challenge the negative representation of Africans that perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices in the West, and demanded that Plan International Finland withdraws the campaign, and offers apologies to the African and PoC community, and return the prizes awarded to them. Plan has refused to apologise, and to return the prizes.

They started a campaign with discussion on social media, a demonstration at the office of Plan International where a petition was sent with the demands.

More information is to be found on: https://www.ruskeattytot.fi/rakenteet/protectblackgirlstoo.

See more information on:  www.sahwira-africa.org

Twitter: @sahwiraAfrica

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sahwiraafrica/

Other links:

DIN wholeheartedly supports this campaign and will help mobilize against the dehumanization of African people in Western media.

We call upon other organization to join the campaign of SahWira and offer their support for their campaign. More information: Faith Mkwesha, faithmk20@gmail.com, whatsapp: 00 35 45 66 888 75.

Listen to the Yle Areena podcast discussion in Finnish and some in English

https://areena.yle.fi/1-4426443?utm_source=facebook-share&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=areena-web-share

Mahadura & Özberkan

Valkoiset pelastajat

Isomahainen, tummaihoinen nuori tyttö poseeraa puun juuressa ja katsoo suoraan kameraan ja kuvatekstinä lukee: 12-vuotiaan äitiysvaatteet. Muistatko nähneesi kyseisen kuvan esimerkiksi bussipysäkillä? Kyseessä oli palkittu Plan international Suomen kehitysyhteistyökampanja lapsiäitiyden vähentämiseksi.

Tutkija ja hyväntekeväisyysjärjestö Sahwira African Internationalin perustaja Faith Mkwesha kritisoi palkittua kampanjaa rasistiseksi. Tutkija Mkwesha kysyy, olisiko kampanjaa toteutettu, jos kyseessä olisi ollut valkoinen lapsi? Faith Mkweshan mukaan lapsia tulisi suojella eikä käyttää mainoskampanjassa, joka toistaa stereotyyppistä kuvaa afrikkalaisista passiivisina toimijoina, jotka tarvitsevat valkoisen ihmisen pelastusta. Tutkija nostaa myös huolensa kampanjan vaikutuksista Fridahin tulevaisuuteen sekä kampanjan vaikutuksia afrosuomalaisiin ja rodullistettuihin henkilöihin.

Millä tavalla hyvää tarkoittava ihminen voi oikeasti aiheuttaa harmia? Mahadura & Özberkanissa puhutaan valkoisista pelastajista, hyväntekeväisyydestä ja hyväntekeväisyysjärjestöjen kuvastoista, jotka käyttävät ruskeita kehoja ja tällä tavalla ylläpitävät stereotyyppisiä käsityksiä siitä, millaista on olla ruskea, musta tai rodullistettu ihminen?

Lähetyksessä syvennytään white savior complexiin. Mistä puhumme, kun puhumme valkoisista pelastajista? Mitä tekemistä ilmiöllä on kolonialismin ja valtasuhteiden kanssa?

Lähetyksen aikana kuullaan useampi kommentti tutkija ja hyväntekeväisyysjärjestö Sahwira African Internationalin perustaja Faith Mkweshanilta.

Studiossa vieraana Antroblogi verkkojulkaisun uutistoimituksen jäsen ja Suomen Lähi-idän instituutin tutkijavierailija Liina Mustonen, markkinointivastaava sekä freelance-kirjoittaja Mirna Shampemba, feministisen ja antirasistisen kansalaisjärjestön Fem-R:n puheenjohtaja Nitin Sood sekä Plan international Suomen pääsihteeri Ossi Heinänen.

Lähetykset

  • to 24.5.2018 13.02 • Yle Puhe