Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in Dread
The majority of Norway adverted their attention to a ceremonious tying of the knot between bride Thea and groom Geir this Saturday. The union had been publicized via Thea’s blog as she documented her most intimate thoughts regarding her journey to missus. Like many modern brides she posted about picking out flowers, finding the dress, and her nerves regarding the night of. So why did Thea’s blog attract 500,000 page views in a matter of weeks, becoming Norway’s most viewed site in a single day?
Because this bride to be is 12 years old and her soon to be husband is 37.
Titled, “Stop The Wedding”, Thea’s blog created an outcry amongst Norwegians as they viewed the young girl’s selfies and perspective wedding cakes, while reading her dark internal struggles. Outraged many community members called the police and child protective services, questioning how this act could be permitted. (Source)
Thea and Geir’s matrimony was an illusion, a facade created by Plan Norway, an aid organization seeking to end the 39,000 under age marriages that happen daily.
In less than two weeks Thea’s wedding reached over 2 million Norwegians on social networks – a startling statistic considering Norway’s population of 5 million. Plan Norway faced a common problem in the nonprofit sector – the issue at hand was too distant for the target donor to relate.
While the faces of girls from Bangladesh and West Africa weren’t able to grab audience’s heartstrings, Thea, a face that resembled their daughter, niece, or neighbor, was able to stop them in their tracks and trigger an emotional reaction. The reaction rippled into behavior change, as the audience was unable to shake the story of innocent Thea who’s excitement for picking out furniture for her new home drew to a quick halt when she realized her bed would be shared with a man beyond her father’s age.
While the blog succeeded in encouraging the sponsorship of underage brides, it also generated immense amount of awareness, through extending Thea’s story in every direction creating a cohesive, dynamic campaign.
On October 11, also the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child, 400 people took part in the ceremony between Thea and Geir. Outside the church several hundred people demonstrated against child marriage, circulating a petition to end all underage unions. When the twelve year old was posed the question, “Will you take Geir’s hand in marriage,” the supporters howled back “Stop the wedding!” (Source)
Plan Norway’s secretary general, Olaf Thommessen, perfectly summarizes the factor behind this campaign’s immense success, “We believe that provocation is a powerful tool in order to demonstrate a reality that truly is very provoking.”
Provocation at this level can only be achieved through taking a problem and placing it on the audience’s doorstep. Plan Norway achieved their goal through utilizing a narrative that connected to it’s audience, surprising them with a twelve year olds face as they skimmed a typical bride’s blog. Thea’s story provided a link between the audiences’ untapped disgust and intolerance for child marriages and a platform to communicate that deep reaction in a meaningful way. The idea invited a reaction as the girls in countries too far to touch who are married off every two seconds became alive in the shape of the girl next door.