Dec 6th, Village Irumbai, Tamilnadu: Yesterday had a wonderful 3 hour interaction with about 200+ village women from the Vanur block in Villupuram district, all members of women's Self-Help Group (SHG) formed by Auroville Village Action Group, yet again reminded of the vulnerability and ignorance of our village women..."my child got low marks, i was asked to meet the teacher at school...he asked me to give my child, 'memory _______' drink (a popular drink that costs a bomb for the poor village women and promises great memory improvement or atleast that is the impression gathered by the gullible teachers) as that will improve my child. i don't know what to do, i have to obey the teachers, they talk with so much authority, but, should they start telling us what to feed our children also? as it is much of what i earn goes into paying the fees!" exclaims a village mother.
a quick online search found this article (link) on how the popular brands are playing on the insecurities of the parents to sell their products as a quote in the article says, "It is such a crafty move," says Bejon Mishra, former member of the Food Safety Authority of India and the founder of non-profit organisation Healthy you. "You sell your product playing on your target audiences' insecurities and anxities and instill a sense of guilt."
another on-line article calls such advertisements manipulative (link) - Leading advertising film-maker Artee Surendra Nath said the commercials were 'manipulative' and called for them to be banned. "The message is completely manipulated. This will create a fear psychosis not just in children but also in the parents. Both children and the parents might rely more on these drinks for better performance in examinations rather than concentrating on their studies," he said. "In a country like India, where a vast population lives on meagre salaries, such advertisements shift their focus from basic needs to more luxurious products. The Advertising Standards Council of India should take notice of these misleading advertisements and completely ban them," he added. GlaxoSmithKline and Heinz, the makers of Horlicks and Complan respectively, said their spokesmen were unavailable for comment.
simple ignorance of what is nutritious food is exploited by commercial minded marketeers using the vehicle of social inequality and make profits. the women further say that they feel helpless in front of the 'educated' teacher and the school administration in most places demands that parents come to school to discuss issues of low marks and such 'solutions'!
many grassroot workers too are not aware of the dangers of such manipulative advertisements and are unable to help the village women in the popular perception largely created through television advertisements.
at the end of the meeting, the mother who mentioned this incident to me said that she will try and address a more balanced and nutritious diet for her child first and then decide whether to heed the 'advise' of the teacher or not. the Village Action Group has requested for a series of awareness programmes for its SHG women leaders so that they are able to make better and informed choice of what they and their families ingest.