Tanzila is back on the small screen to kick out gender inequality
TV series Icchedana helps level the playing field in Bangladesh
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In a society that is riddled with gender inequalities, girls are succeeding on many fronts, giving hope that perhaps the tide might be turning for Bangladeshi girls and women. The success of TV show Icchedana, featuring the fictional character Tanzila, is part of this positive trend.
Tanzila and her friends in an all-girls football team question and overcome practices and harmful beliefs that lead to child marriage and other violations of girls’ rights.
Tanzila’s courage and determination bring out the real-life struggles and triumphs of adolescent girls in Bangladesh. She and her friends deal with mental health, menstrual hygiene, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, school drop-out and the ever-looming threat of child marriage. Tanzila shows how ordinary girls have the ability to rally and resist against the odds.
In one episode, Tanzila saves a friend from a forced marriage by alerting the police. In another, Tanzila and her friends learn that their period is natural and that there is no shame in it. Boys and parents from the fictional community are a big part of the Icchedana conversation, discussing the merits of girls’ education and delayed marriage.
As the Icchedana story develops, Tanzila grows from a shy, introverted girl into a courageous football star who excels in school.
Actress Priyam Archi, who plays Tanzila, says the character has made her more assertive:
“It’s been four years of playing Tanzila in Icchedana. As an actress, I need to believe in the character that I play. Tanzila’s confidence made me confident, her leadership of the football team has improved my own leadership skills. Now, if I meet any obstacles as a young woman in Bangladesh I think through the issue and solve it rather than being afraid or avoiding it entirely,” explains Ms Archi.
Unpacking the problem
There are many obstacles for girls in Bangladesh, where half of young women aged 20 to 24 years old were married before the age of 18 years. This is more apparent in rural parts of the country where poverty, deep-rooted norms and unequal relations leave many girls vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.
Produced jointly by UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, the Icchedana edutainment series seeks to address the gender inequality, beliefs and expectations that are at the root of the high prevalence of child marriage in Bangladesh. The girls in Icchedana work to overcome the challenges of adolescence and football becomes a platform for empowerment and for their families and communities to support positive behaviors.
Knowledge as a starting point for change
A survey conducted after the first series of Icchedana showed higher knowledge of the harmful consequences of child marriage as well as changed attitudes related to gender discrimination among the respondents who had watched the series.
The survey which was conducted in three districts where child marriage prevalence is high – Tangail, Nilphamari and Kushtia – also found that more boys and fathers discussed child marriage after watching the TV show.
The Bangladesh Football Federation is heartened by an upsurge in girls wanting to play football. And as Tanzila returns to the pitch for a third season of Icchedana, actress Archi expects to see further positive impact on girls and on society.
“I hope girls get to work on what they love to do – whether it’s football, acting or engineering,” says Ms Archi.