International Women’s Day: More than just a cover story

If it weren’t for the colour of the veil, this could be any other popular glossy aimed at women getting married. But in place of the traditional white, the beautiful young girl staring from the cover wears a black veil and, instead of a smile, she wears a look of pure fear.

Child Bride is one of three spoof magazine covers produced by Catapult, a US-based crowdfunding site, as a way of suggesting that International Women’s Day on 8 March is more than just a “cover story“. It is brilliant not just for raising awareness about victims of sex trafficking, slavery and child marriage, but for inverting the typical media approach to International Women’s Day, where inspirational women make magazine covers promoting a good cause, or even just themselves. Role models are all well and good, of course, but sometimes the reality of so many female lives is better.

Spoofs can be tricky to pull off – forced marriage and child sexploitation not in general being a barrel of laughs – but these are funny because they look so real at first sight. I particularly like the headlines “He’s how old? 60? 70? and other questions not to ask”, “50 RECIPES WE LOVE – So easy an illiterate child could make them” and “Go on … STRESS LESS! Because life’s too short to do anything yourself”.

Good Slavekeeping, Thirteen and Child Brides are spoofs of the similarly named glossies – Good Housekeeping, Seventeen and Brides – and, indeed, all women’s magazines,and cleverly exploit the way they look.

Maz Kessler, Catapult’s founder and creative director, says: “Thankfully, these are fake magazines. Unfortunately, these are real problems.” The campaign was launched to stress that International Women’s Day is “more than just a cover story.”

Here are the reasons given for why:

14m girls — some as young as eight years old — will be married against their will in 2014.

• An estimated 1.2m children are trafficked into slavery each year; 80% are girls.

• In New York City, the average age at which a girl first becomes a victim of commercial sexual exploitation is 13.

Catapult, which takes no money from the donations made to the projects it supports, was set up to redress the fact that so little money goes to women and girls, despite studies showing how effective such donations would be. When it comes to adolescent girls – those most vulnerable to the forced marriages, slavery and trafficking featured here – the figure is as low as 2% of every development dollar, according to the UN Foundation. In 2009, the median percentage of total grant monies allocated by foundation in support of women and girls was 5%. These findings are based on analyses of more than 9,100 grants awarded by 42 foundations.

Massler says raising awareness through the media isn’t enough. She set up Catapult to provide a direct link between donors and projects supporting girls and women.

Next to each cover story, a button asks readers to “Do Something About It”. Not a bad aim for international women’s day. – Jane Martinson © Guardian News and Media 2014

Image –