Topics: Gender empowerment, GEM, Gender Equity, Religion, Islam
‘Burka Avenger’ Cartoon Aimed at Empowering Pakistani Girls
BY NINA PORZUCKI ⋅ JULY 26, 2013 ⋅ POST A COMMENT
This past Sunday, TV host Aamir Liaquat Hussain gave one couple the surprise of a lifetime. He handed the childless couple an abandoned baby girl to keep. He stunned the couple and the nation. Hussain’s stunt is an extreme example of a relatively new phenomenon says Arif Rafiq who studies Pakistani politics for the Middle East Institute.
“Pakistan has a booming private media,” Rafiq says. “Dozens of privately owned news channels and cable entertainment changes and much of the content is religious. So what we see is a merging of religious sentiment as well as a budding form of commercialism and materialism and capitalism and what we saw in that television program was an ugly confluence of the two.”
Model Mathira Mohammed starring in the controversial Josh Condoms advertisement. (Photo: Screengrab)
Meanwhile, while an apparently abandoned baby was doled out as a prize, an effort to stop the conception of unwanted babies caused another minor stir on Pakistani TV. The Pakistan media regulatory agency banned a commercial for Josh condoms saying that it violated a code of conduct.
The ad stars the 21-year-old super model Mathira Mohammed as herself. Mathira’s beau in the commercial is the envy of the neighbors. They can’t figure out why she’s with him. The super model makes her average-looking guy a drink, she plays with his hair, she feeds him.
It’s all pretty tame by Western standards and then when the neighbor gets the average guy alone he asks for his secret. Average guy flashes a smile and a Josh condom.
“She is in many ways the Paris Hilton of Pakistan,” Rafiq says. “Her association with the ad is what gave the ad the hyper sexual connotation as opposed to what it should have been, which is a public service announcement that focused on a key public health issue.”
The ad was funded by an international NGO. Some Pakistanis view the funding of public service announcements by foreign entities like NGOs or even foreign governments themselves with some suspicion says Rafiq.
Animated TV series “Burka Avenger.” (Photo: “Burka Avenger”)
A few eyebrows have been raised in Pakistan by a different kind of TV project that’s funded by an anonymous donor. It’s a new superhero cartoon that’s actually debuting next month. The heroine is fast; she’s fierce; she’s wearing a burka; she’s the Burka Avenger.
Burka Avenger was created by the Pakistani pop star known as Haroon. The heroine is a mild-mannered teacher who wields her super weapons — some very powerful pens and books — against the evil Baba Bandook who is trying to shut down the school.
It’s an Urdu-language cartoon aimed at middle class Pakistani girls. While the lack of transparency about the funding troubles Arif Rafiq, he says the message is a positive one.
“I think the message is primarily to young Pakistani girls that they could do anything they want, that they can be full and active citizens of their own country,” says Rafiq.
Wonder Woman watch out.