Fair and Lovely?

A Vaseline advert for men's skin-whitening cream
A Vaseline advert for men’s skin-whitening cream

At what point in the future will branding not be such a dominating force in society, or even cease to exist all together?

I asked myself this question yesterday, following a conversation had with colleagues here in Delhi about skin-whitening, and the way this practice has swept across the country.

Millions of Indian women and (more recently) men buy brands such as Fair and Lovely each day, in an attempt to look fairer and more attractive. The same company who produce Fair and Lovely (Hindustan Lever, a Unilever subsidiary) also just launched a hand-washing initiative in India, through their Lifebuoy soap brand, aimed at helping eradicate easily preventable diseases – such as dysentery – which claim the lives of many young children in India.  The ad is pasted at the end of this post.

In my simple mind, the conflation of these two Unilever brands in what they stand for, and what they are selling, is slightly bizarre. Continue reading “Fair and Lovely?”

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Brave new world (of uncertainty)

"Only by embracing uncertainty, will the way forward manifest itself" (Jo Confino)
“Only by embracing uncertainty, will the way forward manifest itself” (Jo Confino)

When I was last in Bangladesh, in November, a factory fire broke out in Ashulia, near the capital Dhaka, killing over 135 factory workers.

Like others at the time, this event prompted me to write – http://saigonsays.wordpress.com/category/travels/bangladesh/ – to raise awareness, to express sadness, and to describe CARE’s work in this particular arena.

It’s selfish writing in many ways.  Such an unnecessary event, needlessly taking lives, and a sense that you can respond in some capacity by simply writing a narrative.  Although, at the time, I don’t remember it making me feel any better about what had taken place in Ashulia.

And now it has happened all over again, once more in Bangladesh, this time just north of the capital, in Savar, after the total collapse of the Rana Plaza building, last Wednesday.  Rana Plaza was eight-storeys high, housed four garment factories, 6,000 workers, and should never have been open last week, after factory inspectors had ordered the building be evacuated having declared it unsafe. Continue reading “Brave new world (of uncertainty)”