The years, 1990 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.
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.
‘Meena’ represents a significant achievement for UNICEF in Bangladesh.
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.
About 97 per cent of urban and 81 per cent of rural children and adolescents in Bangladesh recognise Meena.
Meena is a spirited, nine-year-old girl, who braves all the odds – whether in her efforts to go to school or in fighting the discrimination against children.
The Meena figure has achieved remarkable popularity as she tackles the key issues affecting children. The stories revolve around the adventures of Meena, her brother Raju, her pet parrot Mithu, and members of her family and community.
Bangladesh was the first country to launch Meena when a film about her struggle to go to school, called ‘Count Your Chickens’, was broadcast on national television in 1993.
Meena continues to survive and grow after 25 years. The original materials are still relevant and effective.
Since then, Meena has starred in 26 films for television, as well as radio programmes, comics and books. Every year, UNICEF releases new Meena stories that are read and watched by children and adults alike in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Meena episodes have been dubbed into local languages and shown on TV in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as well.
UNICEF continues to speak with children to find out what stories people want to hear and this game is another step to reach their expectation.
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 the odds to gain equal treatment, love, care and respect. Creative and exciting story lines have promoted social issues in an appealing and provocative way.
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)
Meena fans now spread into the second generation.
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.
UNICEF Bangladesh introduced the Meena Media Awards in 2005 – an initiative aimed at promoting excellence in media regarding stories for and about children. Also, from 2012 UNICEF started a live radio show featuring Meena, Mithu and Raju as presenters which receives minimum 1,000 phone calls from children all over Bangladesh during the one hour show.
On the 70th anniversary of its founding in 2016, UNICEF Bangladesh launched the ‘Meena Game’ as a ‘free’ app and more than 800,000 people have already downloaded it.
- A digital platform created for children to learn issues related to their own well-being through entertainment.
- First step in establishing a ‘digital footing’ of UNICEF in the era of social networking as the game will be designed as an ‘interactive’ platform.