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January 13, 2016

Pakistani comic series challenges social taboos

Islamabad

January 13, 2016

Islamabad

Pakistani comic series ‘Team Muhafiz’ challenges social taboos in a simple illustrative manner to reach out to public in educating and creating awareness about various social issues. Receiving overwhelming response, the comic series is becoming popular amongst young adults and school-going children.

'Team Muhafiz', a monthly comic book series, has been working silently in Pakistan to disseminate positive social messages and raise awareness regarding pertinent social issues such as disappearing mangroves, drug mafia and child marriage.

Written by Samar Minallah Khan and Imran Azhar -- the brain behind the project, the comic is illustrated by Babrus Khan, colours by Rabiya Waheed and edited by Mira Sethi. Launched in August last year, the comics produced both in Urdu and English, aim to inform the younger population about social issues and problems like illegal cutting of trees or child marriages, which plague our society. Covering topics like ‘Disappearing Mangroves’, ‘Toxic Lands’ highlighting drug issues in children, the comic series just released its third edition on the regional problem of child marriage.

'Team Muhafiz and the Child Raiders' is the story of Safiya, a schoolgirl whose passion for football is cut short by her family’s plans for arranged marriage. The issue explores the ages old tribal custom of 'vani', whereby young girls are forcibly married as a punishment/price for a male relative’s crime. 'Team Muhafiz', the team of young, local heroes whom the comic is based on, rescues Safiya just in time, and deal with her perpetrators.

The comic is based on the fictional story of eight teenagers -- four girls and four boys. Their aim is to fight the wrongs of society with a superpower unlike those featured in most superhero comics, one that is available to all but exercised by a few in acceptance and the will to bring about a positive change in society.

The most recent installment of the comic, 'Team Muhafiz and the Child Raiders', deals with the controversial topic of child marriage. In Pakistan, instances of child marriage are not uncommon and educating children about it is necessary. The volume is co-written by Samar Minallah Khan, who shares her experience and says, “I agreed to be part of this venture because it is new and innovative way to spread social messages. We need to think of new strategies to break the silence around issues like child marriages, acid crimes," Samar said. 

The characters of 'Team Muhafiz' include Reza, a 16-year-old who loves to play guitar; 15-year-old Elaha is passionate about football, inventing, and creating; 14-year-old Mahnur is all about Taekwondo, kickboxing, and fashion designing; Qani is 19-year-old and loves to play golf and loves to cook; Zane is your regular boy who is passionate about cricket and bikes and is a person of few words; 7-year-old Parinaz is yet another sports person in the lot with her love for hockey; Cheeku, 19-year-old, wants to become a car-racing champion; 17-year-old Aarya loves to dance and is passionate about yoga; and the character who supports these kids through and through is SHO Azam, a 52-year-old, who is passionate to bring justice to all. The series is trying to break stereotypes. They’ve a boy who loves to cook, a girl with passion for football, and an SHO who wants justice for all.

After coming out with topics like environment, drugs and child marriage, the 'Team Muhafiz' is all set to release another double issue which talks about acid attacks.

This bold and colourful series of comic books with pertinent social message is going to go a long way in helping change the mind sets of the youth. In the long run, it can also be used as a tool for advocacy in schools all over Pakistan. 'Team Muhafiz' is a group of young people from varying cultures working together to guide young minds.

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