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It was the year 1992 when Bangladesh Television aired the first episode of “Meena” series. Narrating her struggle to go to school, the episode, “Count Your Chickens”, soon won hearts of children and Meena subsequently became a natizen across South Asia.
Now, she is a friend of millions because of her capability in simple storytelling and providing necessary messages.
Initially intensive research was carried out to find the perfect look and name for her. Before finalising the Meena, we know now, artists from four countries had to draw dozens of different South Asian girls.
First formative research process involved surveying of over 10,000 children and equal numbers of adults in focus group discussions and interviews across South Asia. Investment in this research has been essential for enabling people to participate in the creation of Meena and for achieving the acknowledged authenticity of Meena’s voice.
Research also was conducted to decide on the attires Meena should dress on and the type of life she might have and it still continuing to speak with children to find out what sorts of stories children want to know about her.
Lingering this, further questions regarding Meena’s introduction in newer forms of media could be placed. A topic of debate could be aroused: whether Meena is perfectly fitted where she belongs or she needs more “friends” and “likes” as well as “followers”.
Dr. Mira Aghi, D Director of research for the project, thinks Meena has the ability to have many more friends and followers as she can be fit into modern social networks like facebook and twitter.
“Meena is a girl who is amiable and approachable. She welcomes everyone and brings out the best in individuals. She respects everyone and everyone likes her, simultaneously she is very independent. She is successful in raising issues and bringing people to her viewpoint.
“All these qualities are what the youths today want to possess,” said Mira Mitra , Communication for Development Specialist of UNICEF Bangladesh.
Mira recalled the early days of Meena were dealt in “a very special way and it emerged totally from the ground”. She said the research team worked on the lingo of the masses because they wanted to recognise a regional identification in Meena.
“Meena is beyond time and boundaries. You go to any of the South Asian countries and they would say Meena is their native girl. The Nepaleese, Indians would say that she is a Nelapeese or Indian as the Bangladeshis would say she is a Bangladeshi,” said Mira.
Mira believes that Meena has the ability to see the best in others, a quality which today’s young would love to emulate.
Eminent artist Mustafa Monwar , another key person behind Meena’s inception, said that using advanced platform such as facebook and twitter in further popularising her would be a timely step.
But he observed that things have to be ensured in the process so that the target children, who are mostly from villages, are not being overlooked.
“I see nothing wrong to introduce her in social networks. Internet usage in the country is growing fast but it is still to reach the height of television popularity, nevertheless computers have been supplied in schools across the country and children can be benefited from it,” he said.
Monwar said that “school broadcasting”, which is a popular medium among children in Japan, can be initiated in Bangladesh. Moreover, he opined that airing Meena episodes on cable channels and providing CDs of those among children would be a successful step.
Meanwhile, Md. Faruque Jalil, Director of Policy and Operations, Directorate of Primary Education said that Meena is such a character whom not only children but parents also like. He was of the view that social networks can be used in popularising Meena.
“Meena has been raising her voice against discrimination, child marriage etc. Children are learning from her. So, it would be appropriate to reach her through as many platforms as possible,” he said.
Jalil said that the government is planning to incorporate Meena in its new projects like developing terminal competencies for children.
As concluding remark you may consider the following
Meena materials have been available mostly in audio-visual and print media. It is now time to introduce Meena materials in digital format like interactive games.