State-owned radio and television channels in India are airing spots promoting girls’ education featuring Meena, an animated character developed by UNICEF. The highly motivational spots addressing parents, teachers and local leaders have been dubbed in 14 major languages of the country. The media campaign began in mid- February and will continue till mid-April. Another burst is planned just before the start of the next academic session.
UNICEF has developed these spots which are being supported by the government with a substantial investment in media buying. The barriers that prevent girls going to school – household chores, the lack of basic facilities in schools and the poor quality of teaching by demotivated teachers - are addressed through these spots. State-level initiatives are also being undertaken to develop programs for television and radio based on the idea of Meena., which could be listened to in listener groups.
The barriers that prevent girls going to school – household chores, the lack of basic facilities in schools and the poor quality of teaching by demotivated teachers -are addressed through these spots.
Meena – a nine year old South Asian girl –has been featured in several UNICEF projects and is familiar to people throughout India. Evidence indicates that she is immensely popular and is like a role model for many young girls. A number of activities have been conducted from 1998 onwards as part of the Meena Communication Initiative. The Meena experience has been most encouraging in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.
In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India, the State Education Department has taken the lead in supporting the establishment of more than 19,000 girls’ groups called “Meena Manch” all over the State. The process was initiated in 2002. Seeing the success of the Meena Manch, it has been decided to expand the concept to many other states. These Meena Manch initially comprises a minimum of 20 girls - . Out of these 20, 15 girls are those who are in upper primary school and the rest are out of -school girls. Gradually the number of members increases. Under the guidance of one facilitator teacher the Manch contributes to ensure age appropriate enrolment, regular attendance and completion of primary education up to class five by all girls in their area. As the experience shows, the entire process also contributes to empowerment of girls.
Similarly in the primary schools, Meena Cabinets are being set up. The Meena Cabinet will have two children from each class i.e. classes 3, 4 and 5. Cabinet Members will help ensure that all children who are enrolled attend school regularly.
The capacity of the community-based organizations is also being built up to promote girls’ education and to contribute to make school an enjoyable and fulfilling experience for both teachers and children.