What We Are Doing

Q&A on Save the Children Norway's 'Birth of an Invoice' campaign 31 Mar 2015

Lisa Brodshaug, Campaign Advisor at Redd Barna (Save the Children Norway) answers a few questions about their recent 'Birth of an Invoice' Campaign.


'Birth of an Invoice' is an interesting name. What were your thoughts behind the campaign?

Most people in Norway take for granted that giving birth is free of charge. Birth and invoice are two words that somehow contradict each another. Invoice is impersonal and associated with economy, whereas birth represents something warm, personal, emotional - values that cannot be quantified. We wanted to do an experiment: put these two words together and test people’s reactions. Of course with an aim of reminding Norwegians that paying for births is the rule rather than the exception in the world today.

We decided to target midwives, a group of people with strong professional integrity, and with (literally) hands-on-experience with these extraordinary occasions in people’s lives. How would they react if we introduced a ‘birth meter’ in the maternity ward, a tool for them to use for cost control during labour? How convenient wouldn’t it also be if the tool could also produce an invoice and a price tag to be attached to the baby’s arm…?


How did you convince the Midwives Association to work with you on this campaign?

SC Norway has been partnering with the Norwegian Midwifery Association (NMA) since 2011. When we presented “Birth of an Invoice” to the president of NMA, she immediately embraced the idea. Their support has been on a highly substantial level, enabling us to create a credible story, giving us access to the hospital and to the midwives, and not at least; vouching for the project in terms of ethics. Hidden camera in a hospital is a challenging exercise.

Can you give other country or member offices a few tips to keep in mind when planning a stunt like this?

If you plan for a hidden camera stunt, make sure you are well prepared. Hidden camera as a method taps into a lot of grey zones, juridical and ethical. Additionally, you run the risk of being revealed, of not getting the reactions you expected, and lastly: not getting the necessary permission from the participants to publish the film. A lot of effort can easily be wiped out in few seconds. Ask yourself: Are there other ways to get your message across, or is hidden camera really what you want to do? Hidden camera is a “one take”-situation. Remember to document behind-the-scenes!

Did you hear any interesting anecdotes or stories from the midwives that made an impact?

Some of the midwives described the stunt as a wake-up-call. One of them stated: A women being placed in such a situation is forced to choose between health and economy, or even life and economy. That provokes me! Another midwife told her moral integrity was shaken, and that she most of all felt like slapping the instructor across the face and leave the room. These were exactly the reactions we wanted to see, as they tell a lot about the injustice poor women are facing in a birth situation in many parts of the world. When we are so upset about Norwegian women having to pay, why aren’t we upset on behalf of women in Nigeria?

What was your favourite moment of the campaign and its launch?

I remember my colleague and me, together with the president of NMA, hiding behind the shelves in a corner of a room close to location. After weeks of planning and hours of rigging, we were ready to receive the first “victim” for our gig in a training room across the corridor. We were fairly relieved when the first midwife came out and we understood she had swallowed the bait!

We also had an exciting moment when pre launching at the hospital where the film was shot. We bought a cake for the midwives and hoped they would not turn angry. There was no need to worry, they were all happy with it – only a couple of them complaining about having bad hair day captured on film!

What are you expecting this campaign to achieve – in Norway and globally?

Birth of an Invoice is part of a sequel of campaign peaks through five years of Every One in Norway. All though slightly different approaches and creative wrapping, the underlying message has been Safe deliveries for mothers and babies – not matter where you live!

Through almost five years we have been telling the Norwegian government we are keeping an eye on them, and that we will keep them accountable. So far we have influenced political documents, contributed to an increased public spending on health aid and strengthened our position as a go-to-organisation on maternal- and child health. Birth of an invoice mobilised a strong group of professionals (midwives) and we reached hundreds of thousands of people with our film. When people know and show their support, we can do a better job convincing our politicians to be ambitious on behalf of children. Norway is a strong actor on global health. We work continuously to equip our politicians to keep the flag high, and in particular put pressure on our PM Erna Solberg, to make sure free health care for mothers and babies is a part of the new SDG agenda.  If we succeed, that’s when the real work starts!