Meena now rules the airwaves

Meena now rules the airwaves

ROLE MODEL Members of the Patna Rights Collective perform a play based on the much-loved character of Meena. Pic/WFS

Nine-year-old Meena is in the news once again. This time it’s because the cartoon character who has been educating children across India on issues of gender and health through stories in comic books has now been given a voice.

Every day Meena comes on air on All India Radio (AIR). Launched recently from AIR’s Lucknow and Lalitpur stations, the 15-minute programme is broadcast six days in a week.

‘Hey, that’s who I am’

Reshma Bano (12), from Gosaiganj, credits Meena for inspiring her to become a lawyer. “When I hear Meena speak, I can identify with her completely. That’s why I encourage all those people who don’t send their daughters to school to listen to Meena and understand how important it is for girls to be educated. My parents too love to hear Meena speak and accompany me to the homes of the people who don’t send their daughters to school. Like Meena I tell them that we should help each other lead a better life.”

Reshma is not the only one talking about Meena, who has emerged as a role model for millions of children across South Asia. A spirited nine-year-old, Meena along with her brother, Raju, and a garrulous parrot, Mithu, has been inspiring schoolchildren, their parents and even teachers through entertaining stories.

Speak up, loud and clear

Lalita Pradip, Director, District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), says: “Until now children were listening to the stories of Meena in English. The character has been instrumental in ensuring that girls, even in rural India, do not hesitate to speak English. Through Meena, girls are learning to express themselves. We hope to launch the Meena radio programme in regional languages as well.”

Adele Khudr, Chief of UNICEF, Uttar Pradesh, says: “Through this radio incarnation, children, especially girls, in the remotest villages will be reached.”

Conceptualised by UNICEF with help from Hanna-Barbera, the legendary creators of ‘The Flintstones’, this fun-loving child represents ordinary girls in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal. Along with her pet parrot, Mithu, Meena confronts the problem of extreme discrimination that girls in the region face.

Go for it, girls!

Terming the decision to launch Meena on radio a landmark one, Santosh Yadav — a former bureaucrat and the only woman to scale Mount Everest twice — was present during the inaugural broadcast of the show in March.

Citing her own life as an example of how an ordinary girl from a village of four households reached the top of the world, Yadav in her interaction with a large number of schoolgirls who had come from the eight blocks of Lucknow, talked about how Meena was an inspiration to her too.

“There is no such thing as destiny. It is important to aim high and go for it. Society is invariably against the girl. Many families succumb to social pressure and discourage their daughters. But as daughters we (must) persist with determination and march on.

Education through radio is a powerful medium of self-instruction as well. I learnt English listening to the radio and was able to clear the IAS exams. So, I feel Meena is a very apt gift to all the girls who have dreams of becoming something in their lives.”

And, Meena knows her brand value. She declares in one sequence, “I am motivational, I
am inspirational and most importantly I am enjoyable!” Little wonder then that her voice is ruling the airwaves.

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