Who is Meena?Meena is a fictional cartoon character from South Asia. She is a spirited, nine-year-old girl who braves the world – whether in her efforts to go to school or in fighting the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in her village.
Feisty and courageous, Meena speaks out against injustice and champions the rights of children. In her adventures, Meena deals with the problems that millions of girls face every day, such as access to education, early marriage, unequal food and work.
Meena is widely recognised and appreciated in most South Asian countries, and is a successful advocacy and teaching tool for girls’ and children’s rights. The Meena figure has achieved remarkable popularity as she tackles the key issues affecting children, and the threats to the rights of millions of girls in South Asia.
What should Meena do?
- Keep quiet. Meena doesn’t want the boys to start teasing her as well.
- Yell at the bullies to stop and give Rita a chance to escape.
- Speak to her friends about the problem.
- Tell her parents or teacher about the problem.
Meena and UNICEF1990 to 2000 was the Decade of the Girl Child. UNICEF decided to celebrate the decade by creating an animated film series to entertain and inspire girls, their families and communities across South Asia. Meena is the heroine of this series.
Bangladesh was the first country to meet Meena when a film about her struggle to go to school, called Count Your Chickens, aired on national television in 1993. Since then, Meena has stared in 19 films for television, as well as radio programmes, comics and books. Every year, UNICEF releases new Meena storylines that are read and watched by children in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.
A lot of research went into finding the perfect look and name for Meena. Artists from four different countries drew dozens of different South Asian girls, before settling on the Meena we know today. In developing the initial films, UNICEF spoke to over 10,000 children about the clothes Meena should wear and the type of life she might have. The name “Meena” is common across South Asia.
The Meena Communication InitiativeUNICEF developed the Meena Communication Initiative (MCI) as a mass communication project aimed at changing perceptions and behaviour that hamper the survival, protection and development of girls in South Asia.
Following eight years of extensive research in the region since the initial conceptualization, UNICEF launched the Meena Communication Initiative in September 1998. The name Meena is one that spans the different cultures in the region, and a cast of carefully researched characters has been created for Meena's family and community. The Meena stories are entertaining and fun, but also reflect the realities of girls' lives in South Asia. The stories revolve around the adventures of Meena, her brother Raju, her pet parrot Mithu, and members of her family and village community.
The stories cover issues such as education, health, gender equity, freedom from exploitation and abuse. A story about girls’ right to play called ‘Fair Play for Girls’ was developed in conjunction with the Asian Cricket Council, and recently the Government of Japan helped UNICEF produce an episode that helps teachers and children deal with the shocks and trauma of natural or human-made disasters.
The MCI arose from a need to find culturally appropriate ways to communicate messages that address the empowerment of girls in one of the world’s most challenging gender environments. Showing a healthy, personable child who can engage constructively with her family and her community to help overcome serious issues has proved extremely popular.
The MCI has been linked to education, health and social development programmes undertaken by UNICEF partners in government, NGOs, the media and the private sector. Meena has proven to be an effective messaging device when implemented alongside other programme interventions, and has enhanced perceptions of girls. Many children have wanted to either emulate Meena or have adopted her as a figurehead for their own efforts to change their worlds.
How is Meena used?Meena is used as a tool to impart important messages on gender, child rights, education, protection and development. The Meena stories present many positive images of a girl succeeding against odds to gain equal treatment, love, care and respect. Creative and exciting story lines have promoted social issues in an appealing and provocative way.
By the end of 2005, 33 stories had been produced by UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia. The core materials are in five languages – English, Bangla, Hindi, Nepali and Urdu. These have been translated or dubbed into many other South Asian languages as well as European languages.
The Meena Communication Package consists of:
- Comic books
- Animated films
- Discussion and teachers’ guides
- Radio series (produced in collaboration with BBC world service)
The animated film is the flagship medium through which a set of characters and core set of stories come to life, capturing the attention and imagination of audiences and providing a creative focus.
Meena in South Asian CountriesIn Bangladesh, Meena stories have been incorporated into the formal and non-formal school curricula. UNICEF Bangladesh introduced the Meena Media Awards in 2005 – an initiative aimed at promoting excellence in media regarding stories for and about children.
In Pakistan, Meena and her brother Raju are Ambassadors for Children’s Rights. The MCI has been systematically integrated as a communication resource into the work of the education, health, and girl/child rights promotion sectors.
In India, the Meena series has attained national recognition and has been integrated as a communication tool within ongoing nationwide education and communication programmes. State-owned radio and television channels are airing spots promoting girls’ education featuring Meena. In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the State Education Department has taken the lead in establishing more than 19,000 girls’ groups called “Meena Manch” throughout the state. The process was initiated in 2002. Under the guidance of one facilitator/teacher, the Manch helps ensure age-appropriate enrolment, regular attendance and completion of primary education up to class five by all girls in the area. Meena Cabinets are being set up in primary schools with two children from each class (i.e., classes 3, 4 and 5).
In Nepal, Meena is used as a key resource in initiating community discussion and reflection on child health, development and gender issues, helped by the strong partnership that has been built with the media and other partners.
In Bhutan, UNICEF in collaboration with the Bhutan Post designed and printed 10,000 sheets of Meena postage stamps and 5,000 Meena posters. The Meena postage stamps and posters contain the key message, “Educate Every Girl and Boy”.
In Sri Lanka, Child Rights Education programme and Mine Risk Education programmes use Meena as the role model for educating children, with a spillover effect to adult education.
Meena episodes have been dubbed into local languages and shown on TV in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as well.
Meena DayIn 1998 Bangladesh marked Meena Day (24 September) on the national calendar. Meena Day continues to be celebrated each year.
Complete list of Meena comic books and films
Meena Comic Books and Key Messages
- 1. Count Your Chickens - Meena's dream of going to school comes true
- 2. Dividing the Mango - Raju finds out what it is to like to be Meena for a day
- 3. Will Meena Leave School? - Meena finds a way to increase the family's income
- 4. Who's Afraid of the Bully? - Meena and friends get together to solve the problem of bullies
- 5. Saving a Life - Meena saves baby Rani when she has diarrhea
- 6. Meena's Three Wishes - Meena tackles the issues of hygiene and sanitation
- 7. Say No to Dowry - Meena and her family question the practice of dowry
- 8. Too Young to Marry - Can Meena help her cousin who is being married before the legal age?
- 9. Take Care of Girls - Girls and boys have an equal right to health care
- 10. I Love School - A good teacher makes all the difference
- 11. It's Got to Be a Boy! - Meena teaches her uncle to welcome the birth of girls and boys equally
- 12. Meena in the City - Meena experiences the life of a domestic child worker
- 13. AIDS: A Girl's Story - Meena helps challenge stigma and some myths about HIV/AIDS
- 14. Learning to Love - Children need stimulation, care and play from an early age, and fathers' involvement in their development is important
- 15. Strangers in the Village - Coping with differences and peace building in conflict situations
- 16. Reaching Out - Community care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS
- 17. Meena and Her Friend - Iodine deficiency disorders and support for children suffering from IDD
- 18. It Could Happen to Anyone - Keeping children safe from accidents, including road accidents among adolescents
- 19. The Girls Came Back - Trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls
- 20. When Meena was Born - Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and complementary feeding along with breast milk after that
- 21. When Meena was a Little Girl - Low birth weight among infants and its prevention
- 22. Seeing in the Dark - Vitamin A deficiency and prevention
- 23. Health in your Hands - The importance of hand washing to be healthy
- 24. Safe from Worms - Worm infestation and prevention
- 25. Fair Play for Girls - Girls' right to play and recreation
- 26. Baby Rani's Four Visits - The importance of EPI (immunization)
- 27. We Love Books - The need for quality learning materials for education
- 28. Learning with Meena - The importance of educating girls
- 29. School First, Marriage Later - Prevention of early marriage and retention of older girls in school
- 30. Teacher Helps to Learn - Quality of education in classroom situations
- 31. Let's Go to School Together - Retention of girls in school (after primary)
- 32. Learning Can be Fun - Need for quality education
- 33. Life has Changed - Psychosocial episode
Intro Song:আমি বাবা মায়ের সৎ ও আদরের মেয়ে
আমি বড় হই সকলের ভালোবাসা নিয়ে
আমার দুচোখে অনেক স্বপ্ন থাকে
আমি পড়ালেখা শিখতে চাই !!!
আমি বাবা মায়ের শ-ত আদরের মেয়ে
যদি চারদেয়ালের মাঝে কাটে সারা জীবন
তাহলে থাকবো শুধু বোঝা হয়ে
শিক্ষা আমায় মুক্তি দেবে মুক্তি-ই দিবে !
আমিইতো কালকের খুশি আর আশা
আমারোতো সাধ আছে , আছে অভিলাষ আর
ঘরে বেধে রেখোনা
নিয়ে যাও এগিয়ে !
আমি বাবা মায়ের শত আদরের মেয়ে !
Meena's Theme Song English TranslationI am my parents' affectionate daughter
I grow up with everyone's love
There are many dreams in my imaginations
I want to be educated!!!
I am my parents' affectionate daughter
If the life spends inside 4 walls forever
I will only be a burden then
Education will surely give me freedom!
I am the hope for tomorrow
I also have wishes and wills
Don't keep me locked in a home
Take me ahead!
I am my parents' affectionate daughter!
Source: UNICEF, WIKIPEDIA