On the 70th anniversary of its founding in 2016, UNICEF Bangladesh launched the ‘Meena Game’ as a ‘free’ app.
The animation character Meena is a hugely popular icon of child rights in Bangladesh and across South Asia, this new digital platform creates room for children to learn issues related to their own well-being through entertainment.
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.
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. 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 AND UNICEF
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. 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.
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 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:
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 COUNTRIES
In Bangladesh, Meena stories have been incorporated into the formal and non-formal school curricula. (Further detail is stated separately)
In Pakistan, Meena and her brother Raju are Ambassadors for Children’s Rights. Meena 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 IN BANGLADESH
‘Meena’ represents a significant achievement for UNICEF in Bangladesh. As a brand the character Meena is recognised by 97 per cent of urban children and adolescents and 81 per cent of children and adolescents in rural areas in Bangladesh, with a large percentage able to cite some key messages. Programmed since 1992, her popularity base now extends into the second generation. The initiative has far exceeded original expectations in terms of outreach and longevity. Meena has proved to be a communication tool with unique potential.
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.
WHY MEENA GAME