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EmpowHER: Leading the Path for Ethiopian Girls

Brianna Hamade and Ariana Mollers
Website: http://amollers1.wix.com/empowher
Social Media: www.instagram.com/empowher_ethiopia

Our digital advocacy campaign is EmpowHER, a campaign designed to raise awareness
and funding for young girls in Ethiopia to help them receive education. Virginia Tech panhellenic
women are the target audience for this campaign. The funding raised from the proposed
campaign would go directly to Girl Effect, a non-profit organization leading a movement to
reform social norms and provide education for young girls in poverty. Girl Effect has a campaign
dedicated solely to Ethiopia; the money made from EmpowHER would go towards working with
policy makers, donors and partners to help large-scale educational programs to ensure the
permanent development of girls in Ethiopia. While mostly digital, this campaign has potential to
spread into a movement on campus, by engaging our audience through interactive displays and
events.
All around the world, women who are educated are more likely to have greater economic
opportunities and are less likely to grow up without contracting HIV/AIDS and being forced into
early marriage and childbirth (The Girl Effect, 2016). Unfortunately, girls in Ethiopia are much
more likely not to receive an education as compared to the male population. Nearly 42 percent of
the adult male population is literate, whereas only 18 percent of the female population is literate
(UNESCO, 2012). Overall, the literacy rate of the whole country is only 39 percent (UNICEF,
2013). Progressing to secondary school is an even more difficult feat for girls. Of those who
attended primary school, only 41 percent of girls went on to secondary school. This number only
becomes more shocking knowing that out of every 100 boys at school there are only 77 girls
(UNESCO, 2012). Statistics show that 19 percent of girls are married under the age of 18
(UNICEF, 2013). Connecting the dots, it’s possible to see that there is a correlation between girls
not moving onto secondary school and child marriage. Through education, these young girls can

escape child marriage, realize their economic and personal potential, live safer lives, find a voice
within their communities, and gain autonomy over their futures.
Young girls are not the only ones who benefit from education in Ethiopia. In fact, so will
their children, families, communities and the economic growth of their countries (Girl Effect,
2016). According to a study on country-specific constraints to higher return investments in
adolescent girls, if every Ethiopian girl had the opportunity to finish secondary school, it would
add almost $4 billion to the Ethiopian economy (Gale, 2013). By investing in the education and
future of young girls, EmpowHER is redefining how Ethiopian girls view themselves in society
and is also breaking the cycle of poverty that is prevalent throughout the world.
The target audience, Virginia Tech Panhellenic women, were specifically selected for
several reasons. We have chosen to focus on this audience because they have a pre-existing
history of supporting a similar cause. Two years ago, the Virginia Tech Panhellenic community
chose to support Circle of Sisterhood, an organization of sorority women whose focus is on
educating women in developing countries. Every year, Panhellenic plans multiple philanthropy
events that educate members of the community on this issue and to raise money for the cause.
We hope to further engage that specific community by making them feel as if their support has
direct and visible impact by focusing on one specific country, Ethiopia, which is harder to notice
when attention and efforts are more widespread. We believe that this audience would back this
cause wholeheartedly and believe in the cause.
Another reason this community was chosen was due to Panhellenic’s willingness to
budget and raise money for philanthropic causes. These organizations typically have large
budgets since their members pay dues so they are able to donate large amounts of money. Other
campus organizations do not have comparable budgets and the average student alone often does

not have the means to donate large sums. There are over 2,400 members within the Panhellenic
community comprised of 12 different sorority chapters. In 2014, Virginia Tech Greek life raised
over $350,000 and completed more than 30,000 hours of community service for various
philanthropies (Foy, 2014). This goes to show the philanthropic nature of Panhellenic women
and organizations and why we believe they are a good target audience.
Lastly, we believe that Panhellenic women have a strong potential to relate to the stories
of these young girls. We strategically used visual storytelling to appeal to the empathetic nature
of sorority women, who are often student leaders on college campuses, to create a sense of
impact and connectedness for the Ethiopian adolescent girls. The combination of the campaign’s
relatability and the leadership abilities of this community of women will make it possible to
come closer to solving the problem of lack of education for girls in Ethiopia.
We chose to use visual rhetoric, which is the theory that shapes an argument by using
images and metaphors to persuade an audience. Visual literacy is an umbrella term that
encompasses visual thinking, visual learning, and visual rhetoric. Visual rhetoric is comprised of
art, aesthetics, and media (Purdue Online Writing Lab, 2016). This was the best theory to use for
the campaign because we wanted our message to be heavy with visual infographics and images.
While similar campaigns focus on engaging an audience through visuals that stir feelings of
sympathy and sadness, we wanted to engage our audience through a highly visual, interactive
story that made viewers feel connected to the spirit of young girls.
Before creating our visual arguments, we first brainstormed how we pictured this
campaign to look like. Because we wanted to make this campaign a story, we thought about what
visuals might go along with that theme. In stories, there are usually pictures to give the reader an
idea of who the characters are, scene setters, details, and a plot. First, we created our main

character, Adina, a 10 year old girl from Ethiopia. The first section of the website sets the scene
for the reader before they are even introduced to any other aspect of the organization. In order to
learn more, they are called to an action: to pick between two paths. This visual story mapping
was done to make the reader invest in our story before calling them to an even bigger call to
action, such as donating money. The story plot depends on what path the reader chooses. The
first path follows a short story line where Adina lives a life with education and leads a successful
life. However, the second path, follows Adina into a life where she cannot afford education and
spirals into an impoverished life. Only after they have become attached to Adina can they view
the rest of the site to learn more about EmpowHER; each path ends with another call to action
that asks them to donate money to either make her life a reality or to change her fate.
Throughout the campaign we chose to use several visual arguments to amplify Adina’s
story. We have several uses of demonstration incorporated in our website. On the front page, we
added a photo of an Ethiopian girl to give readers an idea of who Adina is, and to help create an
immediate connection between the viewer and this character. On the “About Us” page, we used
another photograph of school children to visualize kids at school learning and also to create a
way that made a cause very far from our targeted audience feel more real. Later on, we included
graphics inside a book to give information while sticking to our education theme. In terms of
symbols, we have our logo, which is an silhouette of a young girl running with a book in her
hand next to the organization’s name, EmpowHER. A young girl was chosen for the logo above
other options because it serves as an anchor to the campaign’s visual and literal story; it is a
reminder of the focus on young girls and their need for education. By having an image of a girl
running, it evokes a metaphor of someone who is empowered and running toward her future with
action. Other symbols we used include books and a pacifier.

Within our infographic, there are elements of visual metaphors. One of our statistics is
about child marriage, so there is a graphic of both rings and handcuffs, that work as a visual
metaphor to show that children getting married locks them away from gaining other
opportunities outside of the home. There is also a girl on a staircase which acts as a metaphor for
how education acts as a stairwell to higher opportunities. We used flags throughout the site as
well. On the first page of the story, our buttons look like picket direction signs where the reader
can choose a path. Once the reader chooses a path and it goes to the next page, there is a flag on
the side of the page, which is a sign that says either “Path One” or “Path Two”.
We decided to use Instagram as our primary social media outlet, because not only is it a
primary social media outlet for our audience of sorority women but it is also consistent with our
storytelling theme and the use of visual rhetoric. On our Instagram, we used a combination of
ways to communicate our message. We used demonstration through both an infographic as well
as photos of young girls, with our caption explaining their dreams and how education could
impact them. We also used quotes that got the point across that education can make people
successful. This social media outlet works very well with visuals, and also allows for text and
graphics to interact together.
In the study completed by Vlasis Stathakopoulos, Ioannis G. Theodorakis and Eleni
Mastoridou, the theory of resonance in visual advertising is tested in various studies. They
describe resonance as “the specific interaction between a visual metaphor and a verbal phrase”
(Stathakopoulos, Theodorakis, Masteridou, 2008). Meaning, this specific verbal phrase does not
just restate what the visual image is, but rather interacts with it to produce an impactful echo of
the message. For example, a simple image of a product and the name of the product would not be
an example of resonance in visual rhetoric. According to their results after testing various

consumers’ reactions to different types of advertising, a resonant advertisement was considered
more favourable than a non-resonant advertisement. Their study also found that resonant ads
were not more difficult to comprehend than a non-resonant ad. These results greatly influenced
the formation of the campaign, where we worked to create a resonant message through the our
visual rhetoric. Instead of simply showing non-resonant images of young girls from Ethiopia
who require education, we chose to create a resonant image through the consistent interaction of
the visual story path and the language used to engage the audience. Our resonant images include
the logo, the two pathways, and the infographics that all center around books and stories. Instead
of simply having a button that asks to donate, readers are instead asked by a resonant call to
action to “change her fate,” which is an interaction that parallels the rest of the visual imagery.
Overall, we believe the resonant advertising in our website will prove to be more effective,
memorable, and give readers a more enjoyable experience.
Visual rhetoric is significant because it has the power to change existing opinions. In
order to change opinions, it is possible to think of visual rhetoric in combination with dual
coding theory, which says that to effectively frame an argument in the mind of the audience, it is
necessary to combine both verbal and non-verbal arguments. In our campaign, we used visual
rhetoric for our non-verbal arguments and our written appeals as our verbal argument. It is
widely accepted that visual elements make for stronger arguments because of the complexity of
meanings that visuals can add. Visuals amplify text and make them more relatable to readers. It
is known that adding visuals to text make the meaning more memorable. When people see
different visuals, they apply their pre-existing opinions and beliefs to that visual, providing more
context to the situation. When combined with text, this meaning can become much stronger than
it was without the use of visuals (Seo, Dillard, and Shen, 2013). By combining these two

elements, we created a strong argument as to why people should care to help these young
Ethiopian girls.
Our campaign is focused on a cause that we care a lot about--educating underprivileged
girls. In the United States, young girls are fortunate to have the opportunity for free and equal
education, but that is not the case everywhere in the world. In Ethiopia there is a huge gender
gap, most especially in education, and the results not only hurt the women of the country, but
also the country itself. Through the use of both verbal communication and visual rhetoric, our
campaign has the potential to make a huge difference. By using this theory, we were able to
develop strong emotional appeals while also still providing the information needed for
Panhellenic women to make a decision as to whether or not they should support the cause.
Should this campaign become a reality, we estimate that it would become a successful movement
that would have a high impact on the lives of Ethiopian girls.

References
Gable, Susanna. (2013) Girl Hub: Girls and Income Growth in Ethiopia. Retrieved April 21,
2016, from: http://www.girleffect.org/media?id=3030
Hill, A. (2014, July 22). Fraternities and sororities emphasize service and philanthropy.
Retrieved April 27, 2016, from
https://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/07/072214-dsa-greekphilanthropy.html
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2016). Welcome to the Purdue OWL. Retrieved April 27, 2016,
from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/691/01/
The Girl Effect. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.girleffect.org/
Seo, K., Dillard, J. P., & Shen, F. (2013). The Effects of Message Framing and Visual Image on
Persuasion. Communication Quarterly, 61(5), 564-583.
Stathakopoulos, V., Theodorakis, I. G., & Mastoridou, E. (2008). Visual and verbal rhetoric in
advertising. International Journal Of Advertising, 27(4), 629-658.
Unicef. (2013, December 24). Ethiopia Statistics. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from

http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/ethiopia_statistics.html
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.). UNESCO Global
Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education - One Year On. Retrieved April 15, from
http://www.unesco.org/eri/cp/factsheets_ed/ET_EDFactSheet.pdf