'Meena' Radio programme launched in UP

As the world stood poised to celebrate the hundredth year of the International Women’s Day, the children of Uttar Pradesh received a much awaited gift: The launch of the Meena Radio programme in the state. This launch made UP the first state in the world to receive a radio incarnation of the much loved character of Meena. Read more

The cartoon character of a nine year old girl has been adapted for radio in a special 15-minute programme designed for broadcast during school hours with interesting and entertaining content centered around the world of Meena.

Launched simultaneously from Lucknow and Lalitpur, two radio stations at Jhansi and Chattarpur will be broadcasting the programme six days a week.

But what makes the broadcast special is that it will be heard by children in Uttar Pradesh in their classrooms Monday-Saturday at 12.30 in the afternoon on AIR. And the kids make no secret of the fact how excited they are to be able to hear their favorite cartoon character come to life and chat with them on radio.

Fifteen year old Adil from Amethia Salempur a small district in Uttar Pradesh can’t stop talking of ‘Meena,’ Starry eyed he declares, “Listening to Meena in class has inspired me to become a police officer. Just like Meena I too want to clean up the social evils like alcoholism, gambling and theft which is a huge problem in my village. Meena has helped bring in a tremendous change in the mindset of my friends and family and now they show more respect for women and girls and they encourage their daughters and sisters to go to school and study too.”

Twelve year old Reshma Bano from Gosaiganj, on the other hand credits ‘Meena’ for giving her the inspiration to become a lawyer, “When I hear Meena speak I can identify completely with her, in fact I feel that I am better than Meena and can do lots more for my village and community. That’s why I encourage all those people who don’t send their children to school to listen to Meena and understand how important it is for children to get educated. My parents to love to hear Meena speak and accompany me to the homes of the people who don’t send their children to school and speak to them. I also tell them like Meena we should all work for the betterment of our society and help each other to build a better life.”

But Adil and Reshma are not the only one’s in Uttar Pradesh who are talking of ‘Meena’ a role model of millions of children across the South Asian region Meena, a spirited nine year old along with her brother Raju and garrulous parrot Mithu have been inspiring school children, teachers and the parents to through entertaining stories that help children live a much fulfilling life.

Explains Lalita Pradip, Director, District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), “Until now children were listening to the stories of Meena in English and the character has been instrumental in ensuring a change in mindsets by taking away the fear attached with speaking English that most children feel coming from rural backgrounds. Even the teachers were very excited about the students who responded instantly. Through Meena kids learnt lessons without being under the pressure of exams and tests. This model has been extremely successful in most schools under us. Now with the launch of the Meena Radio Programme in the regional language as well the audience base will further broaden with community, parents and educationists all getting even more sensitized. Even those children who drop out from school will benefit with AIR now broadcasting it for all.

And that’s precisely the reason Meena was brought to Uttar Pradesh in her first radio incarnation. Conceptualized by UNICEF in early 1990s with the help and guidance of Hanna-Barbera, the creators of Yogi the bear, this Smart, fun-loving and simple child represents the girls in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal.

Along with her pet parrot ‘Mitthu’, Meena confronts extreme discrimination against girls in this region. She has endeared both the young and the old. Meena material is available in a number of languages, including Bengali, English, French, Hindi, Nepali, Portuguese, Spanish and Urdu.

“There is no better way of celebrating the 100th year of International Women’s Day than welcome this radio incarnation of Meena” said Adele Khudr, Chief of UNICEF UP. In this incarnation children in remotest villages will be reached and touched by the world of Meena.”

And will she be the same as the printed version?

Avers Angela Walker the Chief of Communications of UNICEF India, “She returns with her usual charm but with added roles. Using the powerful medium of radio she will now communicate messages on many important aspects of child rights, gender and child-friendly schools. While she will address key issues related to social and behavioral changes, she will do it in the most entertaining manner.”
Terming it a landmark decision to launch Meena on radio Santosh Yadav, former bureaucrat and the only woman to scale Mount Everest twice, flagged off the inaugural broadcast of the show.

In a personal account of how an ordinary and simple girl from a village of four house holds reached the top of the world, Santosh Yadav interacting with large number of school girls who had come from the eight blocks of Lucknow, told them how Meena was an inspiration to her too.

“There is no such thing as desity. It is important is to aim high and go for it. The society is invariably against the girl. Many families succumb to social pressure and silence and discourage their daughters. But as daughters we persist with determination and march on. Then parents and family will support us and eventually the society will fall in line. Education through radio is a powerful medium of self instruction as well, I myself learnt English listening to radio and was able to clear the tough IAS exams. So I feel Meena is a very apt gift through radio to all the children in UP who have dreams to become something in their lives,” she said.

And she is not wrong eithe. Surveys by the Basic Education Department reveal that Meena has proved to be a successful advocacy and teaching tool promoting girls’ education and children’s rights through short films, spots, book, videos etc.

Since use of Meena advocacy material began not only has the attendance in school upped by 30% but the rate of dropouts to have reduced with children’s learning achievements like reading and writing increasing as well.

An achivement not many real life characters have been able to replicate but then as the character herself declares, “I am motivational, I am inspirational and most importantly I am enjoyable!” all three factors required to make education meaningful and Meena has them. So litle wonder she struck a chord.

So here’s welcoming Meena To apna Uttar Pradesh

Anjali Singh(The author is a Special Correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and also the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: anjali@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org )

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