KARACHI: To protect the rights of young girls and raise awareness regarding child marriages, graphic novelist Imran Azhar and social activist Samar Minallah Khan endeavour to educate children through comic books.
“I returned to Pakistan after 20 years and wanted to educate children,” said Azhar, who is the brains behind the comic series, Team Muhafiz.
The comic is based on the lives of strong and patriotic individuals belonging to different faiths. “We did it to give a sense of belonging to all children and break stereotypes,” he added. “In our comic books, girls fight and boys cook.”
He was speaking on the second day of the fourth Children’s Literature Festival. The session was titled, ‘Launch of Comics on Ending Child Marriages.’
Team Muhafiz and the Child Raiders depicts a 13-year-old girl, Safia, who loves to play football and is selected to play at national level. However, she is given as vanni (forcefully married) to her enemy’s much older son because her uncle killed someone from their enemy’s family. The decision was made by a jirga to forgive her uncle for his crime. She weeps and asks her family to save her from the punishment for her uncle’s crime.
To change the mindset and encourage people to raise their voices against injustice, the comic depicts Aslam, Safia’s brother, as the hero of the story. “The reason why we showed Aslam standing against the cruel practices of vanni is to inspire boys in similar situation to speak up for the rights of their sisters,” added Khan, who worked with Azhar on the issue.
“These girls are so young that they can’t do anything against the injustices they face,” remarked Khan. “However, there is a law against this crime.” Khan has worked extensively on curbing the prevalence of child marriage in all four provinces. Forced child marriage is called vanni in Punjabi, swara in Pashtu and sang chatti in Sindhi, she pointed out.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2016.