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Voice of Meena

Voice of Meena
© UNICEF Bangladesh
Voice of Meena

Meet the Voice of Meena
By Zafrin Chowdhury

For Promita Ganguli the invitation to "be" the voice for Meena was a dream come true. Promita and her sister Amrita, 8, grew up watching and loving the animated character Meena  - as do her friends and millions of other children in Bangladesh.

"I was happy and excited when the rare opportunity to be Meena's voice came my way.  I dramatically broke the news to my friends at school saying, 'Meet the new Meena, you will soon hear my voice when Meena talks in the next episodes'," said a beaming Promita, "They treat me like a celebrity now and wish they could be also part of Meena."

A search for a new voice for Meena began earlier this year as UNICEF Bangladesh worked with producers on five new episodes of Meena - the "old" voice of Meena had grown up and was no longer available.  Promita's aunt, an artist herself, offered Promita's name to AVComm, the multi-media production house assigned with the dubbing for the new episodes. "As we auditioned Promita we knew her intonation matched with the pleasant ring of the voice of millions of children in Bangladesh recognize as Meena's," said Aminur Rahman, partner in AVComm, who has been involved for years in the production of the Meena episodes. "Promita's own familiarity with the earlier episodes and her love for Meena helped her performance; she is doing a very good job."

Promita thinks Meena has a powerful image and admires the good things Meena does for others.  She wishes she could be Meena in real life and solve problems like her. "The city is too big, I wish I had lived in a small village like Meena's where everyone knew and helped each other," she said. "Recently I had a dream in which I was still Promita but somehow was also Meena living in her village and making a lot of difference like her; believe it or not even the shopkeeper was nice to me."  The shopkeeper in the Meena series is sometimes portrayed as an irate elderly man resistant to Meena's positive messages. She added, "In my real life I also try to make some little differences, I draw pictures of clean and healthy practices and hang them at home and school so others remember to follow them."

Of the five episodes Promita is currently working on, her favourite is It Could Happen to Anyone - the episode on injury. At the end of this conversation with UNICEF Promita piped up as Meena's voice in colloquial Bangla, "Don't miss school my friends, education is important."

Meena is a 9-year-old animated girl character who lives in a small village somewhere in the Indian subcontinent with her parents, grandmother, younger brother and sister and talking pet parrot Mithu. Meena speaks in a child's language and through an entertaining story, Meena speaks against gender discrimination and promotes social issues such as education, health, hygiene and safety in ways relevant to the region. A number of evaluations show that Meena is almost universally recognized (nearly 90 per cent) and liked by children in Bangladesh who identify with her, listen to and remember the messages Meena conveys. Meena messages foster interpersonal discussion among children and adolescents. Meena's popularity base, now extended to a second generation, also includes adults.

The Meena Communication Initiative (MCI) was launched in 1992 by UNICEF Bangladesh in response to the decade of the girl child in South Asia. So far 13 episodes, each accompanied by story books in both English and Bangla languages, have been produced.  More episodes are currently under production.

Donors: The Japanese Government, the Dutch Government



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