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“Pakistan Girl”, a heroine against corruption and violence against women

Ⓒ AFP – Farooq NAEEM – | A customer reads a copy of the comic book “Pakistan Girl” on September 15, 2017 in a bookshop in Islamabad

In Pakistan, a cartoon seeks to inspire the younger generation to fight injustice and patriarchy by staging a young heroine who protects battered women and attacks corrupt policemen.

In real life, “Pakistan Girl” is called Sarah. It is a teenage girl who discovers her super powers by leaving the coma in which she was plunged by an explosion in her village.

Dressed in a green costume and cape, the national color of Pakistan, she immobilizes a man who moles a woman in a market and then saves a girl taken hostage by a policeman in search of bribes in the first volume of this comic series published this summer.

The character’s creator hopes to provide a model for his young readers in a conservative country where so-called honor killings, domestic violence and other abuses against women remain widespread and endemic corruption prevails.

“There is a shortage of women who can be role models or super-heroines in the mainstream media here,” writes Hassan Siddiqui.

“We wanted to create a strong female character that girls, and even boys from Pakistan, can admire.”

The publication was well received on social networks, where most Internet users welcome the initiative.

“It’s a great initiative guys .. I’m a big fan of the (American classic) Marvel and DC comics, and I look forward to the sequel,” wrote a Facebook fan, Syed Hassan Nasir.

After a first printing of several hundred copies in English, the next step is a version in Urdu, aimed at reaching millions of readers in the country. The author also reflects on a possible adaptation in cartoon.

– Stereotypes –

But access to the whole population is not easy.

Ⓒ AFP – Justine GERARDY – | Hassan Siddiqui, the author of the comic strip “Pakistan girl”, on 31 August 2017 in Islamabad

The Pakistani educational system, underfunded and poorly managed for decades, does not meet the needs of a galloping population, and more than half of 8-year-olds can not read.

According to a study published by the government in 2016, 24 million young Pakistanis do not go to school, and girls are less likely to be educated than boys.

But in schools, the comic book could help to fight gender misconceptions, says Saadia Adnan, a school director conquered by the concept.

“I think we should teach by relying on this kind of literature, because it is at this young age that they construct the image of what their future life may be,” says Adnan, leafing through the book in a bookseller of Islamabad.

The new heroine created by Mr. Siddiqui walks in the footsteps of “Pakistan Man”, a mustached hero who fought a villain named “The Corrupter”.

“The first comic book, ‘Pakistan Man’, has sold like hotcakes and I hope that this book, which is already selling well, will have the same success,” said Ahmad Saeed, owner of bookstore Saeed Book Bank, an institution in the Pakistani capital.

Before Pakistan Girl, another young hero had conquered the hearts. “The Burka Avenger”, the avatar in burqa, published in 2013, told of the exploits of a discreet mistress who was fighting the bad guys to stop them from closing the girls’ school where she worked.

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