Nearly 93,000 women will be missing in Armenia by 2060. There will be no search, no headlines and no outcry. After all, it’s hard to put out a missing person alert for someone who’s never been born.
The reason? Selective abortion. The combination of societal and economic pressure for a son has resulted in Armenia having the third highest selective abortion rate in the world after China and Azerbaijan.
As so often in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it is civil society leading the effort to change minds and policy on this issue. Irina Oganesyan, from NGO Asthatsolk is an activist behind the campaign “Where’s Eva?” that hopes to get the message across in Armenia that selective abortion is a problem that needs solving. It’s a great idea, but how to do it?
This is where we can help. Our Vsyo Yasno (Russian for everything is clear) workshop is tailored to provide a solution for those times NGOs have an idea but need help to communicate it effectively. Vsyo Yasno brings artists and activists from the region to Prague where they work together to conceptualise a campaign that is striking, engaging and effective. For the activists it is a chance to have access to skills normally out of reach and for the illustrators it’s an opportunity to work with issues they care about and collaborate with highly motivated people on new, inspiring and socially minded projects.
The transformation of Irina’s idea for “Where’s Eva?” as it went through the design process was a clear demonstration of the value of Vsyo Yasno. Four days of collaboration between Irina and the illustrators resulted in the development of an impressive offline and online campaign consisting of posters, booklets, merchandise and adverts designed to force the issue into the public consciousness in Armenia.
Often activists are so focused on their cause it can be difficult to take a step back and think how to communicate their passion to a wider, often sceptical, audience. At Vsyo Yasno, the illustrators play an important role in capturing that emotion whilst ensuring the final product contains what’s needed but remains accessible. Irina, when explaining the topic of selective abortion in Armenia, recognised this skill.
“When I was explaining the topic of selective abortion to the designer I felt overwhelmed with emotions as the topic is so close to my heart, after listening to me for a while she said I’ve got the story, now let’s visualise it. I was amazed that she captured all the details and managed to visualise the issue exactly how I feel about it.”
This ability of the illustrators to distill the ideas of the activists into something practical was demonstrated in all the projects at the workshop as they came up with creative ways to communicate solutions to social issues from all over the region. Topics ranged from media literacy in Kyrgyzstan, monitoring social infrastructure in Kazakhstan to early marriage in Uzbekistan. Linking all of them was the passion of the activists and determination of the designers to find effective solutions.
For Irina, “Where’s Eve?” will kick off when she returns to Armenia, the materials, products and strategy devised during Vsyo Yasno are ready to go. It’s a long road ahead, and whilst far from a silver bullet, it is a powerful example of how NGOs’ campaigns can be transformed with a little outside expertise.