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Children steal the headlines at media awards

© UNICEF/2010/Habibul Haque
UNICEF’s representative to Bangladesh, Carel de Rooy, with children at the sixth annual Meena Media Awards.
Dhaka, Bangladesh, 13 January 2011 - Excited chatter spills down the hallway of the Pan Pacific Hotel in Dhaka City, Bangladesh, where journalists, media professionals and children have gathered for the sixth annual Meena Media Awards. A hush washes over the crowd as renowned judges, drawn from the worlds of literature, journalism, academia and film, prepare to announce the winners.

Introduced in 2005 by UNICEF Bangladesh, the Meena Media Awards celebrate excellence in creative and journalistic media promoting child rights and are named after Meena, a popular girl child animation character whose stories champion the rights of children across South Asia.

Meena is a change agent within her family and community, and the Meena Media Awards are designed to honor those who work with the same spirit and conviction to lift the status of children in Bangladesh.

“Researching this story was an experience unparalleled by anything else in my professional life”, says Zannatul Bakiya Keka, accepting first prize in the adult category for her acclaimed television piece HIV/AIDS Positive Children Living in Misery, broadcast on Channel I in May.

Flanked on stage by her young daughter, Zannatul is clearly moved. “As the mother of a young child, I was profoundly touched by the suffering of HIV/AIDS positive children in this country” she explains. “The social stigma that these children face puts them in a terrible position; secrecy is paramount and those with access to treatment are taught to keep their medicine hidden away from view. They don’t get to speak about their condition at school, and maintaining a regular childhood is all but impossible. These children need special attention. This story was my way of bringing their struggle to light”.

© UNICEF/2010/Habibul Haque
Zannatul Bakiya Keka, accepting first prize in the adult category for her acclaimed television piece HIV/AIDS Positive Children Living in Misery.
Drawing entries from many accomplished adult journalists, the Awards also include special categories for children who have produced outstanding media content on and for their peers. 16 year-old Tamanna Jahan Jisha is one young entrant thrilled to be recognized for her confronting television piece exploring the social phenomenon ‘eve teasing’ (the public bullying of girls and women). “I’ve been producing reports for five years but this is the first time I’ve ever entered a competition”, says a beaming Tamanna “so it’s amazing to receive first prize”.

“I was compelled to document the problem of eve teasing because it’s a serious issue in Bangladesh and many young girls have been driven to suicide to escape the harassment and stigma. I wanted to show victims of eve teasing that there is another way out; that they can overcome their experiences and grow stronger”. Broadcast on ATN Bangla in March, Tamanna’s story focuses on the perspective of the younger generation who express deep concern about eve teasing and appeal to the Government to do more to address this pervasive social menace.

“I feel proud to advocate for child rights and I want to keep working for children” says a tearful Meem Noshin Nawal Khan, aged 13, whose written piece Buker vetor swapna (Dream in my heart) took out first prize in the creative category. Published in the monthly magazine Sabuz Pata, Meem’s entry tells the story of two sisters who dream of going to school, but are prevented from doing so as a result of poverty.

“Media reports serve to draw attention to violations of children’s rights and hold Governments accountable” explains Carel de Rooy as he presents crests and certificates to the Award winners. “You have done the children of this country a great service – your work has brought their voices and issues to the forefront”.

Despite the fact that 45 per cent of Bangladesh’s population is under 18, a recent UNICEF study found that only three per cent of local news currently focuses on children. It is hoped that the Meena Media Awards will help address this chronic under-reporting on children’s issues.

This project is funded by UNICEF’s regular resources.



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