Burqa-clad superhero cartoon, Burka Avenger, to air in India

Series on female teacher who fights for women's rights is a hit in Pakistan

NEW DELHI - A female cartoon superhero who dons a burqa to tackle crimes against girls and other social ills is bringing her message of women's empowerment to India, the creator of the Pakistani children's series said.

The Emmy-nominated Burka Avenger series started in Pakistan in August 2013 and has since been launched in Afghanistan, winning global accolades including the Peabody Award, International Gender Equity Prize and Asian Media Award.

Its main protagonist, a teacher called Jiya - who tackles everything from the ban on girls going to school, to child labour to environmental degradation - was named as one of the most influential fictional characters of 2013 by Time magazine.

Series creator and director Haroon Rashid said Burka Avenger would launch in India this month with the Zee Network and will be broadcast in four languages - Hindi, English, Tamil and Telegu.

"It is launching on the ZeeQ channel, which is a children's edutainment channel, so it is the perfect fit for Burka Avenger," said Mr Rashid in a statement late on Monday.

"We are rolling out a worldwide launch for the Burka Avenger series this year, so it is fantastic that one of the first territories is India, where we are able to reach such a large audience."

Media pundits say the series immediately struck a chord in Pakistan, where Taleban militants have prevented girls from going to school and attacked activists campaigning for their education.

The issue grabbed the world's attention in October 2012, when child rights activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot and badly injured by militants who boarded her school bus in north-west Pakistan.

Commentators say the ironic symbolism in the cartoon - where the burqa, often seen as a form of subjugation, is used as a form of empowerment, and Jiya uses books and pens as projectile weapons - is a creative way of capturing viewers' attention.

Ms Aparna Bhosle, deputy business head of ZeeQ, said each of the 13 episodes in the first series gives a positive message with fun, action and comedy, ensuring that "it does not come across as preachy".

"Burka Avenger is an amazing show - both in terms of quality of animation as well as storytelling. We are always on the lookout for shows with themes that are relevant to Indian children and we are very fortunate that we have this show," said Ms Bhosle.

Crimes against women and girls such as child marriage, domestic violence, so-called "honour killings" and trafficking are widespread in South Asia. A 2014 World Bank report said that excess female child mortality, or the greater rate at which girls die compared with boys, is higher in the region than anywhere else in the world.

REUTERS