UNICEF And The Girl Child

The Meena cartoon series

By Susan McClelland

Meena, the heroine of this cartoon series, is young, spirited, and determined to go to school. She wants to do the things her brother gets to do. However, Meena faces hurdles in pursuing her dreams; she lives in a small community in South Asia where women are brought up only to marry. People see little value in giving Meena an education. Yet, as Meena giggles and naively dares to be different, she challenges the long-standing values of her community and begins a new destiny for the girl child.

Meena is an enchanting little girl who has inspired thousands of children, both boys and girls, to take a closer look at their society and its discrimination. She is a popular figure developed by UNICEF in South Asia. The Meena videos are widely available, reaching both urban and rural audiences. The cartoons are entertaining and humorous, yet relay a strong message. They suggest positive solutions to counteract the discriminations facing a girl child. Meena inspires her family to reevaluate existing social arrangements and shows how, through education and opportunity, girls can contribute to the overall success of the community.

The governments of South Asia - namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka -- have named the 1990s as the Decade of the Girl Child in order to confront the discrimination against girls. Most governments are now committed to providing universal access to education. Nevertheless, in many countries where the girl child is born to marry, parents see little economic value in educating a daughter.

While the Meena project was conceived in Bangladesh, Meena's plight is universal. People throughout the region identify Meena as being from their country; Meena is one of their own little girls. Canadian children will now have a chance to view four of the Meena videos through UNICEF Canada. Subtle and brilliantly conceived, Meena offers children hope for a fair and better future.

Reviewed by Susan McClelland who is with the UN Association of Canada.

Peace Magazine Nov-Dec 1995

Peace Magazine Nov-Dec 1995, page 28. Some rights reserved.

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