Update: SahWira Africa International reaches compromise with Plan International Finland and Ad  Agency behind the Children’s Maternity Wear Campaign

According to SahWira, Plan pledges to decline future awards, as does hasan & partners while also promising to have internal discussions with employees.



SahWira Africa International, the Finland-based non-profit organization aiming to empower women in African countries and those belonging to the African diaspora that criticized Plan International Finland in May this year for  problematic 12 Year-Old Maternity Wear ad campaign that featured 12-year-old pregnant Zambian girl, Fridah, has reached compromise with both Plan and the ad agency behind the campaign, hasan & partners.


“SahWira Africa International thanks Plan International Finland for the way they have handled the criticism and demands from us in a respectful way. They showed willingness to understand our concerns, and when they realized what was offensive in their campaign we found a compromising way to move forward”, says Dr. Faith Mkwesha, Executive Director of the non-profit organization.


The compromise was established in a meeting held on June 20, 2018, between SahWira Africa International, Plan International Finland, and Plan International Global in Turku, and resulted in a public apology in a statement by Plan International Finland:


“We acknowledge the concerns raised on the design and execution of the campaign and are sorry that some aspects of the campaign have caused offence.”


In the statement, they also pledge not to accept any more prizes that the campaign may be awarded, promise that their future campaigns will take the criticism into consideration and agree to a round table discussion with representatives from organisations that supported the SahWira campaign. In addition, they are working with consultants on a plan to avoid similar mistakes in the future, and they also promised to keep on supporting Fridah. Thus, SahWira Africa International has declared victory and has since closed the campaign.


In May, the non-profit organization SahWira Africa International launched a campaign called #ProtectBlackGirlsToo to raise awareness about the ad campaign, which they found problematic.


“The aim was to simultaneously raise awareness about the Finnish ad agency hasan & partners who created the concept and executed it, as well as was awarded for it. SahWira Africa International demanded an apology from Plan International Finland for the racist and sexist campaign that exhibited white superiority complex, and asked that hasan & partners return the prizes. The non-profit also demanded that Plan pay Fridah and her family for their participation in the campaign, and both SahWira and hasan & partners provide a plan on how they will avoid similar situations in the future”, explains Dr. Mkwesha.


As for hasan & partners, SahWira Africa International originally presented that the campaign exhibiting white saviorism, racism, sexism and child abuse should not win any prizes, and demanded that they give back all awards including The Creative Distinction Award by Art Directors' Club of Europe, and Vuoden Huiput, the most distinguished ad award in Finland.


SahWira also asked that the ad agency remove some of the offensive videos on their Twitter, which are not there anymore. hasan & partners requested for a meeting and on August 15, 2018 and it was held at SahWira African Resource Centre.


Mr. Eka Ruola, CEO of Hasan Group and also its acting ECD, as well as Ms. Kirsi Saloranta, Client Services Director met with Dr. Mkwesha, who says:


“They were receptive to our criticism and explained that they were going to give feedback to their colleagues. They will have meetings with their creative teams and some of the workers at the company to discuss the issues of racism, sexism, stigmatization, white superiority complex and diversity. They promised to inform SahWira when they will have the meeting. SahWira recommended workshops which they promised to think about.”  


However, according to Dr. Mkwesha, they agreed that as far as the awards were concerned, SahWira Africa will talk with organisations that handed the prizes out.


Next, SahWira Africa International plans to contact Creative Club of Europe which awarded the Creative Distinction award, and the Association of Visual Communication Designers in Finland, Grafia, to rescind the Vuoden Huiput prizes.



Text: Ruskeat Tytöt Editorial Team
Photos: Heikki Kauhanen (from the demonstration at the Plan offices in May, 2018)