PRI-The World: ‘Burka Avenger’ Cartoon Aimed at Empowering Pakistani Girls | @pritheworld

Topics: Gender empowerment, GEM, Gender Equity, Religion, Islam


‘Burka Avenger’ Cartoon Aimed at Empowering Pakistani Girls


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.

via ‘Burka Avenger’ Cartoon Aimed at Empowering Pakistani Girls | @pritheworld.

CNN: Where have India’s females gone?

Via: CNN.

Where have India’s females gone?

By Carl Gierstorfer, Special to CNN
September 11, 2013 — Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)

Editor’s note: Carl Gierstorfer is a journalist and filmmaker with a background in biology. He has produced and directed documentaries for German public broadcaster ZDF, Discovery Channel and the BBC. His work on violence against women in India was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
His website is

(CNN) — The New Delhi rape case left the whole world wondering why India is treating its women so badly. In fact, discrimination against women already starts in the womb: India has some of the most distorted sex-ratios in the world. There are regions where fewer than 800 girls are born for every 1,000 boys. For many reasons Indian culture prefers sons. An expensive bride-price, or dowry, is only one of them.

Carl Gierstorfer is a journalist and filmmaker, focusing on violence against women in India.

Carl Gierstorfer is a journalist and filmmaker, focusing on violence against women in India.

So day-by-day, thousands of parents circumvent rarely enforced laws and have their baby daughters aborted after an ultrasound scan has revealed the sex of the fetus. It is estimated that India has been losing up to 12 million baby girls over the last three decades.

I wanted to find out what it means for a society if such a significant number of women are missing.

In one village just two hours drive outside Delhi, I met Narinder, a schoolteacher, and his family. He had three brothers and only one of them got married. There weren’t enough brides, because the village has been aborting their daughters for decades.

Narinder told me that he had already reached out to an agent who would find him a bride from afar. In fact, he planned to share this bride with his brothers.

I felt sorry for Narinder, because he totally understood that his misery was due to the fact that his village has been actively selecting for sons. Still, in a quiet moment, he confided to me, that if his purchased wife would be pregnant, he’d make sure it was a son. I was perplexed. Everyone in this village knew it was wrong to prefer sons over girls, everyone experienced the problems firsthand.

And still, like sleepwalkers, they continued their way, because culture dictates that sons are a blessing and daughters a curse.

After the Delhi rape case, the whole world looked at India in disbelief, its urban middle class took to the streets. I returned to India to meet Shafiq Khan, a former Maoist rebel, who realized that violence is not the way forward. Shafiq now uses his wit and bravery to make inroads into rural India’s patriarchal societies.

Shafiq Khan’s organization

We hit the dusty streets, down to Haryana where Shafiq introduced me to women who do not have a voice, women for whom nobody demonstrates. They are abused and raped and sold like cattle and nobody cares. They are called Paro, or strangers. They are the sort of women Narinder will buy — those who make up for the scores who are never born.

Akhleema and Tasleema, two sisters from Kolkata, were born into a poor family, before her aunt sold them via an agent to two brothers in Haryana, who could not find a bride. Within weeks, Akhleema was beaten so hard by her husband, that she lost hearing in her left ear. Both spend their time cooking, cleaning and tending the fields. They have no rights, no voice and, most shockingly: there is no way back. They have children with their men and it is culturally unacceptable to leave them behind.

But where are all these trafficked women coming from? In a cruel paradox, it’s the poor northeastern states of India, like West Bengal or Assam, where sex-ratios aren’t that skewed, that make up for large parts of all the missing women.

Assam is beautiful, even during the dry season. The Brahmaputra winds its way through the plains, quietly and peacefully.

“But don’t be mistaken”, Shafiq says. Because during the rainy season, the river erupts over its banks, destroys fields and villages. In these already poverty-stricken regions, flooding takes away the little people have. Thousands of families are pushed into poverty and helplessness. They end up in flood shelters, vulnerable and easy prey for traffickers, like Saleha and her husband Husain. Their daughter Jaida went missing two years ago. They saw a man entering the hamlet and talking to Jaida. She vanished without a trace.

In a remote village on the dusty floodplains we meet Halida. She had just turned 14, when a man kidnapped her while fetching water. For two days he raped Halida, told her that he would bring her to Delhi in order to sell her. Halida could escape, but now she cannot go to school anymore, because all the children know of the rape and tease her. The parents, day-laborers, cannot find work anymore, because they are ostracized by the whole village. The rape destroyed the family.

While the trafficker may have lost his prey, it’s unlikely that he will ever be punished. The police are corrupt and the more destruction there is, the easier it will be for him to find new victims.

Thus closes a vicious circle in which millions of India’s women are trapped. The prejudices against women are so deeply engrained in the cultural fabric, that only a combined effort, old and young, urban and rural, will be able to break it once and for all.