Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Ladies" Get Your Heads Out Of Your Butts! Meet Meena!

While Kim Kardashian and her imitators snap selfies of their butts (and make asses of themselves) all the while giving credence to the opinion that American women are brainless sex objects, changing them for the butter (yuk-yuk!), a cartoon character on the other side of the plane has changed the lives of young women and girls for the better.

The fictional character Meena stars in the South Asian children's television show of the same name. She was conceived with the help and guidance of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. Promoted by UNICEF, Meena and her TV show is very popular in the region. UNICEF developed the Meena Communication Initiative (MCI) as a mass communication project aimed at changing perceptions and behavior that hamper the survival, protection and development of girls in South Asia.

Meena is all about girl power. Since she first arrived 14 years ago, she has delivered messages on issues from solving the problem of bullying through to challenging the stigma of HIV/AIDS through to girls' rights to participate in sports. The Meena stories are joyously entertaining and inspiring, but also reflect, at their core, the realities of girls' lives in South Asia.

Secondary characters in the Meena stories include her brother Raju, and her pet parrot Mithu. Her audience goes on her adventures as she attempts to get an education, have an equal share of food as Raju, and learns about the HIV virus. All of her stories advocate change in social and cultural practices.

When she is not allowed to attend school, her parrot Mithu memorizes the lessons for her and teaches them to her after class. When this helps her discover that someone is cheating her family out of their chickens, Meena's father sees how her education can benefit the family and he allows her to go to school. Another story follows Meena as she tries to have an equal amount of food as her Raju, who gets more simply because he is a boy. Other tales tell of dealing with disease, maintaining proper hygiene, and the benefits of learning to read.

Her popularity is due to her not being closely bound to just one country or culture of South Asia, but uniting the common characteristics of them all. Her creation is partly due to the UNICEF, an organization that supports the growing educational awareness of South Asia through Meena and her stories.

Meena reaches girls worldwide in more than 30 languages including Arabic, English and Chinese.

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