Meena started out by counting chickens and now she’s talking about big problems like AIDS, dowry, child marriage, coronavirus, gender equality and so on. Meena, the main character of an animated series, is a 9-year-old girl who lives with her parents and her brother Raju. The first episode of the Meena series was telecast on BTV. In the first episode, ‘Count your chickens’, Meena wishes to go to school, but her parents did not let her because she is a girl. To overcome this problem, Meena takes the help of her parrot, Mithu, who memorises the school lessons and then repeats it to her after classes. With the help of Mithu, Meena learns how to count. She counts her family's chickens and realises that one is missing. It turns out that a thief has stolen the chicken. The villagers chase the thief and are able to recover the chicken. Finally, Meena's parents understand the value of education and allow her to go to school with her brother Raju.
The first episode talks about a big problem like not letting a child go to school just because she is a girl. After this episode, there were other episodes that talked about many more social concerns. The Meena cartoon also taught us about basic hygiene, like washing hands before and after eating food, using proper sanitary latrines. Meena taught us these things and for today’s world, this is the most important thing to do now. So, those who grew up watching Meena cartoon already know the importance of these things.
In an episode, Meena was given three wishes. And three of her wishes were: 1. Everybody should use clean latrines 2. Everyone should use clean and safe water and 3. Everyone should wash their hands with soap. She chose these three wishes over other options like diamonds, pearls, food or becoming a film star. Rather than thinking about herself, she chose things which can make people's lives better. And this is how the cartoon motivated us to become a better person and to think about others before ourselves.
In a recent episode of this cartoon by UNICEF Bangladesh, we see Meena learning about coronavirus and mobilising awareness among the villagers. This is how Meena saved the villagers from virus.
Meena became a popular character because of her interest in social problems and her wish to make everyone’s life better when she is just a 9-year-old girl. Meena is a fictional character from the cartoon, but the social concerns she was interested in were not fictional. These were real life problems in South Asian countries. We all would wait eagerly in front of the television just so we can watch an episode of Meena. We learned many things by watching it which it could take us much more time to learn in real life.
The lyrics of the cartoon’s title song are, “Ami baba-maer chhoto adorer meye/Ami boro hoi shokoler bhalobasha niye/Amar duuchokhe onek shopno thake/ ami poralekha shikte chai…” which means, “I am my parents' loving daughter. I grow up with everyone's love, there are many dreams in my imagination, and I want to be educated.” The song is encouraging, inspiring. Every episode of Meena was like a message to us. Everyone thought Meena was a real-life person. While watching this cartoon we felt upset when Meena was being stopped from going to school, like it was us who was being stopped. Then again we also felt happy when everyone wanted her to go to school.
The cartoon MEENA was translated into Bengali, English, Hindi, Nepali, Urdu, Pashto, Portuguese, etc. there is even an android game of MEENA. Looking back at the day when Meena was first aired, every child that watched this cartoon wanted to become like Meena when they grow up.
Every child is told not to watch too much cartoons from their parents, but when it came to Meena, they were told to watch more. It was a cartoon with a message.
Nufaiysa M Rahman is an 8th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka