Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

One Nikahnama at a Time

Alifya Sohail covers Easypaisa's ‘Audio Nikahnama’ campaign.
Updated 02 May, 2024 02:23pm

Easypaisa recently took a bold step towards empowering women and fostering financial inclusivity with its ‘Audio Nikahnama’ campaign. This first-of-its-kind initiative tackles the issue of limited access that women have to information about their marital rights. The nikahnama, or Islamic marriage contract, is a significant document in Pakistan outlining the rights and responsibilities of both parties in a marriage. However, it is often used as a tool to oppress women due to inequitable terms skewed in favour of men; limited legal protection leaving women vulnerable to exploitation; lack of awareness when women cannot access, read or understand the terms; social stigma that arises when women question male authority and the overarching patriarchal framework governing society and reinforcing unequal power dynamics within marriage.

Statistics from the Pakistan Commission on the status of women reveal that two-thirds of Pakistani women are unable to comprehend their nikahnama as a result of literacy barriers. During Easypaisa’s background research with subject-expert lawyers and scholars, it was found that roughly 95% of women did not read their nikahnama due to myriad socio-economic and cultural factors, barring literacy and education.

Head of Marketing at Easypaisa, Rifah Qadri (who frequently faces the assumption that she is a man based on her androgynous name), articulates the deeper motivation behind selecting the nikahnama as the focus of the campaign: “I say I only sell business, but no. I sell empowerment, I sell financial independence, I sell ease. It was us going above and beyond to tell people that we actually believe in giving ease and promoting financial independence and inclusivity.”

“This initiative was beyond the brand and the product. It was beyond the business.”

Although the ‘Audio Nikahnama’ is currently Easypaisa’s largest campaign targeting women, the service has in the past collaborated with female social media influencers to promote the concept of ‘ease’ that the brand offers. Expanding on this marketing narrative, the tagline for the ‘Audio Nikahnama’ ad is: ‘Ab mustaqbil ke faislay samajhna hongay easy’ (Now, understanding decisions of the future will be easy).

While the nikahnama infers a larger focus on marital rights, it encompasses a deeper connection to financial empowerment for women in Pakistan. Within the contract, several clauses afford financial protection to women; thereby, knowledge of these nikahnama rights facilitates financial literacy, a necessary tenet to achieve financial independence. Suppose the nikahnama is neither read nor understood. In that case, the chances of obtaining financial independence are reduced, so “what better way to champion financial independence and inclusivity than to incorporate the audio nikahnama within our app?”

According to Qadri, whenever the app is downloaded, it means that one single woman has already been financially included in the system – going from “unbanked to banked” and becoming part of the financial circle. By integrating the audio nikahnama as an in-app feature, the campaign introduces women to digital financial tools. This can open doors for them to manage their own finances, access financial products and services, and ultimately, move the needle towards greater financial independence. Women who do not have smartphones, or are uncomfortable with technology, can give a missed call to a designated hotline, and the system will call them back and play the nikahnama in their preferred language: English, Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Saraiki, Sindhi and Urdu. The inclusion of a sign language option, made by a female employee at Easypaisa, caters to individuals with hearing impairments.

The ‘Audio Nikahnama’ includes a social media campaign with the hashtag #SunnTohSahi (listen and understand), that leverages eye-catching visuals and powerful messaging to spread awareness about the importance of understanding the nikahnama. Ali Rez, CCO, BBDO Worldwide MENAP, the creative agency behind this campaign, expresses the vision underscoring the creative execution of the ad.

“It does feel like a celebration and it should be a celebration. It’s women finding another tool to help them become free and make their own decisions.”

According to Atiya Zaidi, CEO and CCO, BBDO Pakistan, the background music cultivates a positive and empowering atmosphere; reinforcing understanding the nikahnama with a celebratory occasion. “We used a male voice for the song because we are a patriarchal society. Your father, father-in-law, brother – are the ones who come for the nikah. They are the vakils (lawyers) of the bride. We crafted the communication in a way that did not offend anyone. I think it came to a point where people realised that we were talking about this not from a negative perspective, but from one that highlighted why women should be aware of their rights.”

The media strategy for the campaign was multifaceted, ensuring it reached a diverse audience. Traditional media like radio and TV, along with morning show appearances, brought the campaign into people’s homes. Social media channels provided a platform for wider online reach, especially through TikTok influencer partnerships and positive role-model stories on groups such as Soul Sisters. There were also graffiti campaigns in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, which apart from grabbing attention, served as social commentary, sparking public dialogue about the significance behind truly comprehending the nikahnama.

In an interesting initiative, Easypaisa partnered with beauty parlours in cities big and small, and the decision to include them as a touchpoint was not just about physical reach, but about creating a comfortable space to spread awareness. Frequented by women from diverse backgrounds, these parlours allowed Easypaisa to connect with women on their own terms, as these spaces often hold a trusted confidante status with their clientele and by partnering with them and training their staff to educate customers about the audio nikahnama, Easypaisa leveraged this existing trust and credibility.

Despite its successes, the campaign faced some hurdles, giving rise to food for thought in terms of future deployment. Reaching women in remote areas with limited phone connectivity requires additional solutions. Spreading awareness, particularly in rural and conservative communities, may also necessitate further outreach strategies beyond social media and partnerships. Furthermore, encouraging sustained use of the service and translating knowledge into actual behavioural changes are some of the long-term challenges. Deeply ingrained social norms and limitations on women’s mobility in some communities potentially create resistance to the campaign’s message. Finally, measuring the campaign’s long-term impact on women’s empowerment and decision-making within marriages presents its own set of difficulties.

For the moment, the in-app feature is here to stay and the hotline number will be renewed every year – and, perhaps more importantly, the ‘Audio Nikahnama’ is set to be the first of many campaigns by Easypaisa to promote financial inclusivity for women. Shortly after this campaign, Easypaisa launched ‘Savings Pocket’, advertised as challenging outdated norms of women having to store money in handbags due to the lack of pockets in female clothing. Even though the Savings Pocket caters to both men and women, the women-centred marketing strategy indicates the continuity of Easypaisa’s commitment to champion the cause of financial empowerment for women.