Meena continues to cast her magic spell
By Pulak Raha
24 September 2012: Today “Meena”, an iconic animated character, is celebrating her 20th birthday. Since 1993, Meena has been entertaining and educating children and parents, and raising awareness on the rights of the girl child across the society.
From remote Chilmari under Kurigram district to capital city of Dhaka children could instantly recognize the logo of Meena. Through the animated characters, children recognize their own problems and find their own voices. Rima, a little girl in a Dhaka slum in Karail said, "I want to be like Meena. I want to go to school too.”
Through Meena’s stories, little girls have been able to articulate and identify their aspirations and rights. Likewise, parents have also started getting engaged with issues relating to their daughters and reviewing their own attitudes towards them.
“My daughter is greatly influenced by Meena. She is 10 years now. She always follows Meena. She washes her hands as Meena does and goes to school like her," said a mother in Bogra district.
"I love to watch Meena. It would continue to be very interesting mainly because we can relate to her and the other characters in the cartoon,” says Sorna , 16, currently studying at Class X at Bogra Government Girls' High School.
“An interesting fact is that I was so much influenced by Meena that I started keeping a parrot as a pet,” informed a 12-year-old boy named Mong at Bandarban district.
Such was the magic spell of the animated girl icon Meena even in remote Bangladesh 200 hundred children studying between Class IV and Class IX recognized the characters -- Meena, Raju and Mithu.
In a meeting with children at Kurigram, almost 60 per cent of the total participants could recall stories like Count the Chicken, Three Wishes of Meena, Dividing the Mango, Say No to Dowry. Even the latest episodes Magic Stone and Meena in Fantasy Land were known to them.
Soaked in love of children and adults
Meena is loved by children as well as their parents across Bangladesh. She is the biggest champion of rights for them and they idolize this iconic image in their everyday life.
Activities on Meena are conducted at national, district, sub-district (upazila) and school levels. Meena has been used as a communication tool for disseminating vital messages on education, health, nutrition, protection, rights of the girl child, maternal and child health, exclusive breast feeding, ARI, injury prevention, HIV and AIDS, disaster preparedness and many other issues not only in Bangladesh but across South Asia.
Conceived in the 1992, Meena is a spirited girl from a small non-descript village with traditional values and beliefs. Meena, through various adventures with her parrot, Mithu, her brother Raju, and their friends finds flaws in the uneducated society as she attempts to educate the people around her.
Meena films are very popular both among children and adults. She has become a household name in Bangladesh. However, concerns still persist that the Meena Communication Initiative (MCI), with its existing structure, remains vulnerable and that its potential is yet to be fully exploited to trigger a massive social change.
Agent of social change in Bangladesh
In 2011, UNICEF Bangladesh produced five Meena cartoon films and four comic books on hygiene promotion, infant and young child feeding, promotion of healthy behaviours for flu prevention, promotion of exclusive breast feeding and prevention of corporal punishment at school and household levels. Another two Meena animation films and spots on autism and out of school children have been produced this year.
Meena has tackled many social issues like dowry, gender inequality, early marriage, hand washing with soap, new-born care, pneumonia, and emergency issues.
The most wonderful thing about the nine-year-old Meena is that she does not always solve problems, but she points at those and seeks remedy to those social problems through her parents and the community members.
Iconic role model
Government of Bangladesh with assistance from UNICEF is observing Meena day at national and sub-national level on September 24 every year as a part of its regular social mobilization programme.
This year, Meena advocates for children living with autism and helping generate social support so that autistic children are well accepted by their peers at school.