Meena’s young fans
In their own words, some of Meena’s young fans explain how Meena radio touches their lives.
Laxmi, 12, Kalori
Twelve-year-old Laxmi comes from Kalori, a village 22 kilometers outside Lucknow where she lives with her parents, three brothers and two sisters. Kohl lines her big black eyes and gold earrings glint from her ears peeking out behind two long braids. She exudes a quiet confidence with her hands clasped in her lap over her belted school pinafore that has been mended multiple times.
Laxmi has learned the importance of good hygiene for health from Meena and that you should always wash your hands with soap or ash.
“Meena is like the children around me living in a complete family,” Laxmi says. “I like the way Meena talks. She explains in a very loving way.”
Laxmi wants to be a teacher when she grows up. “As I’ve learned, I want to do the same for the young children in my village.”
But Meena is not only for children. Adults have a lot to learn about her as well, especially keeping their girls in schools.
“My parents also learn to Meena, so do my teachers and a group of us listen in school,” Laxmi says. “The most import thing taught to grownups is that girls should study. They used to worry that sending a girl to school would cause problems. Now they understand that if girls study, they can become something. I love to study and one day I can stand on my own feet.”
Adil, 15, Amethia Salempur
Adil wants to be a policeman when he grows up and clean up his village.
“The environment in my village is bad. There is alcoholism; there is theft; there is gambling that the children see when they are going to school,” the serious 15-year-old explains. “I’ve seen women getting being beaten up because of alcoholism. Even when they get put behind bars, they pay a bribe and get off.”
Programs like Meena teach communal responsibility which can address some of these social problems.
“Meena can help a little in that 15 minutes. Those boys that loiter around, they will go home and realize that what they are doing is wrong," Anil says. “I can’t say much for adults who are already into bad habits. But Meena is a hope for children.”
Students like Meena, because she’s funny and always helping everyone. Stories are communicated in a light, fun way about serious issues. Everybody in classes six and seven listens to Meena which reinforces the messages that girls are just as good as boys. “I I always thought girls can do anything but after hearing Meena it’s made me even more confident that girls and boys are equal.”
Meena has changed not only student perceptions but also adult and community opinions.
“My own father has changed and my friends,” Adil says. “We looked at women in a bad light. We don’t just look at them as objects anymore.”
Sushma, 13, Gosaiganj
Thirteen-year-old Sushma sees a lot of herself in Meena.
“Whatever Meena does that is what we try to do. She likes to study like me,” says Sushma, who listens to Meena with her friends. “We are all like Meena. Meena shares everybody’s joys and sorrows. Nothing is impossible with Meena.”
In Gosaiganj, 23 kilometers outside of Lucknow where Sushma lives, the ideal of Meena may be far from the reality of village life. Girls are often harassed, called “Eve teasing.”
It’s a problem everywhere not just in my village,” she says. “It’s very common when boys get drunk they pull at our clothes we wear and hurt us.”
But listening to Meena with her friends and family has helped change the village mindset and made them more socially conscious.
“She helps everybody and she works for her village -- that’s what I’ve learned from her,” says Sushma her braids intertwined with black ribbons. “There’s a change in the attitude of my parents. They didn’t originally want me to go to school to study. Now they want me to go school. Meena has encouraged the parents to think about going to school.”
Sushma wants to eventually become an engineer.
“Girls are now expected to do a lot more with their lives. That gives me the confidence,” she says. “I just want to be somebody. Education is the way I can do something with my life.”
Reshma, 12, Gosaiganj
Reshma believes the most important lesson that Meena teaches is importance of girls’ education.
“The most import thing is to educate the parents to send their children to school,” says the 12-year-old dressed in her long-sleeved shirt and navy pleated school uniform.
“Both boys and girls need to go to school and study and that will change their lives.”
Many young people had been forgoing schools to work, she says. Boys as young as 12 or 13 work as laborers in brick kilns. Girls work in the fields or spend the day doing chores at home. Meena helps to convince family that there are alternatives.
“They are coming back to school because of Meena,” Reshma says. “Meena says that if you get a girl to go to school, she will be a support to her family and to the family that she marries into. When Meena talks about it on the radio we talk about it in our neighborhood.”
Meena also stresses the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. “My village was kept very dirty. So I talked to my neighbors that if you don’t keep it clean there will be a lot of diseases spreading.”
One day Reshma hopes to become a lawyer. “When poor people go to fight cases in the court they can’t afford it,” she explains. “I want to help fight the cases free of cost.”
Reshma will send her own daughters to school one day.
“It’s not traditional to send girls to school,” says Reshma with a beaming smile. “The greatest gift for my daughter is to give the gift of education, and I will encourage my children to be anything © UNICEF India/2010/Angela Walkerthey want to be.”