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 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.

Support our journalism by paying for Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Bringing the glamour back to flying while keeping it affordable

The pleasure of air travel is back, courtesy of an airline in India.

Before dinner, fashionable women would retire to the powder room and suited-up men would indulge in hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by plush upholstery. A gourmet meal would soon follow, served in fine tableware. Flying, back in the day, was like an upscale party 35,000 feet up in the air.

The glamour of flying has been chronicled in Keith Lovegrove’s book titled ‘Airline: Style at 30,000 feet’. In his book, Lovegrove talks about how the mid-50s and 60s were a “fabulously glamorous time to fly in commercial airlines”. Back then, flying was reserved for the privileged and the luxuries played an important role in making travelling by air an exclusive experience.

Fast forward to the present day, where flying has become just another mode of transportation. In Mumbai, every 65 seconds an aircraft lands or takes off at the airport. The condition of today’s air travel is a cumulative result of the growth in the volume of fliers, the accessibility of buying an air ticket and the number of airlines in the industry/market.

Having relegated the romance of flying to the past, air travel today is close to hectic and borderline chaotic thanks to busy airports, packed flights with no leg room and unsatisfactory meals. With the skies dominated by frequent fliers and the experience having turned merely transactional and mundane, is it time to bid goodbye to whatever’s enjoyable in air travel?

With increased resources and better technology, one airline is proving that flying in today’s scenario can be a refreshing, enjoyable and affordable experience at the same time. Vistara offers India’s first and only experience of a three-cabin configuration. At a nominal premium, Vistara’s Premium Economy is also redefining the experience of flying with a host of features such as an exclusive cabin, 20% extra legroom, 4.5-inch recline, dedicated check-in counter and baggage delivery on priority. The best in class inflight dining offers a range of regional dishes, while also incorporating global culinary trends. Other industry-first features include Starbucks coffee on board and special assistance to solo women travellers, including preferred seating.

Vistara’s attempts to reduce the gap between affordability and luxury can also be experienced in the economy class with an above average seat pitch, complimentary selection of food and beverages and a choice of leading newspapers and publications along with an inflight magazine. Hospitality aboard Vistara is, moreover, reminiscent of Singapore Airlines’ famed service with a seal of Tata’s trust, thanks to its cabin crew trained to similarly high standards.

The era of style aboard a ‘flying boat’ seems long gone. However, airlines like Vistara are bringing back the allure of air travel. Continuing their campaign with Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador, the new video delivers a bolder and a more confident version of the same message - making flying feel new again. Watch the new Vistara video below. For your next trip, rekindle the joy of flying and book your tickets here.


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