comic books

How the World Bank got involved with a comic book series on crimes against women

And how the comics came to add the perpetrators’ point of view.

After winning critical acclaim globally, Ram Devineni’s second comic book, Priya’s Mirror, bagged the Special Jury Prize at FilmGate Interactive Media Festival, Miami, in February. Even as he is prepping for exhibitions at Gainesville, Copenhagen and Brisbane, the New York City-based Devineni, along with the Los Angeles-based illustrator Dan Goldman is working on the story of the third book in the series.

The duo was in India to meet NGOs and sex-trafficked women whose story the next volume, Priya And The Last Girls, will tell. Using virtual reality techniques, the pathbreaking comic book will take the reader around Sonagachi, Kolkata’s famous red-light area and will probably run much longer than Devineni’s first two books.

The World Bank’s WEvolve programme, which deals with gender-based violence across the world, funded the successful Priya’s Mirror and may be interested in backing Priya And The Last Girls. The founder of the programme, Maria Correia, told Scroll.in of the organisation’s unconventional approach, using “edutainment” to understand and address the social norms at the root of the problem.

Edutainment to comics

Correia had worked on social and gender issues with the World Bank for over 18 years when the global outrage over the Delhi gangrape in December 2012 galvanised the organisation into action. “That really was the starting point for us,” she said. Prior to that, the Bank had done little work with gender-based violence, she added.

Correia acknowledged that it was the release of the World Health Organisation’s 2013 report on violence on women triggered the Bank’s response. The report estimated that one in three women across the world have and will face gender violence in their lifetime. “That was when the pervasive nature of the problem became clear to us,” said the British Columbia-based Correia.

In March 2015, she founded WEvolve to bring young men and women together to understand and challenge gender stereotypes and combat violence by engaging the attention of their “elders and peers”. Using the power of creative industries and popular culture, WEvolve is trying to drive social change.

Its methods are not the usual ones. In Mumbai, WEvolve announced its presence with a Blue Runway fashion show by designer Manish Malhotra. “We aimed to bring a new and creative approach to a highly sensitive and intractable subject that brings new actors to the issue and has broader reach and impact,” Correia explained.

In the past two years, her organisation has produced videos, supported edutainment programmes in Nepal and a gender-based violence programme for workers in the Bangladesh garment industry.

During her research for WEvolve, Correia learned of the global impact of Priya’s Shakti, which was launched in December 2014. “We realised that a comic book could potentially involve a much broader socio-economic group and also convey the message more subtly unlike a lot of work done on gender-based violence,” she said. With the comic’s target audience – preteens and teens – being a major part of WEvolve’s audience, the fit was obvious.

The World Bank gets involved

And so, in 2015, WEvolve approached Devineni to fund the World Bank’s first comic book, Priya’s Mirror, the second chapter of Priya’s Shakti. Revolving around acid attack survivors across the world, the story of Priya’s Mirror highlights the emotional and physical impediments, as well as the stigma, they encounter while reintegrating into their communities and how the stigma attached to the act makes it so tough.

Interestingly, the World Bank did end up influencing the storyline. This came in the form of an introduction to the perpetrator’s perspective. “We do not deny that an acid attack is a horrific crime, but in this story we have taken a step to understand the societal norms that impact the attacker’s behaviour,” Correia said.

WEvolve’s research had revealed that most of the work on violence against women in South Asia was focussed on helping the victim. “We wanted to launch a programme to understand why violence takes place at all,” explained Correia. “Any gender-based programme would say that we need to engage men and boys – it’s a politically correct way of putting it. But I think much more radically than that.”

In Correia’s view, the world needs to take on male gender issues to understand the lives of men. “We need to turn our attention to the behaviours of the perpetrators and ask what is driving them to use this violence,” she said. “There is a dire need to introspect why so many men use violence against women, even their own family, why it is so commonplace across the world and how institutions, peers and women themselves perpetuate this practise.”

While the intention is not to absolve men of their responsibility, there is a need to stop propagating these norms and practices. “I’m sure it can be achieved if both men and women work together,” declared Correia.

We can probably expect Priya and the Last Girls to take that story further.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

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What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.