‘Burka Avenger’ Meet Pakistan’s New Superhero
‘Superman meets the suffragettes’. This is just one of the remarks prompted by the refreshing new cartoon recently aired in Pakistan which sees the fight for female education in the region get its very own superhero.
For many of us in Europe, children’s cartoons were a staple of light entertainment in our youths. But, in this project the cartoon takes up a crucial message.
‘Burka Avenger’ sees a mild manner school teacher lives out a secret life as a martial arts heroine hitting back against militants attacking local schools. The story is all too familiar to Pakistani viewers who have also borne witness to attacks on schools and activists by the Taliban in their bid to suppress female education.
The Taliban forced women to wear burkas when they took control of Afghanistan in the 1990s. The cartoonists’ decision to adopt the burka as the heroine’s costume has been criticised by some as accepting what they see as a symbol of female oppression. But its makers have refuted this saying, “is not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes”.
Pakistan is thought to have a female literacy rate in the region of 12%. Thus, to spread this empowering message advocating female education, the visual medium enables it to be understood by as many women as possible; including those who may not understand written text but will be able to experience the narrative offered by the visual cartoon.
The Urdu language cartoon was created by Pakistani pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid and made its debut last month.
He told the BBC, “This is such an interesting way to reinforce positive social messages for kids… The Burka Avenger is a great role model. We lack those in Pakistan.”
Rashid has confidence in the cartoon’s symbolism which is anything but subtle, “She’s saying the pen is mightier than the sword. She is non-violent because she’s throwing books. Most people throw bombs. Think about it.”
You can view the first episode of Burka Avenger, with English subtitles, here-
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