Maya is a young Nepali university student who will play an integral role in shaping the future of a peaceful Nepal after years of political unrest and violence. But Maya is not your average student — she’s a cartoon character.
A series of public service announcements that aired on Nepal’s most popular television stations feature 3D, computer-animated characters such as Maya that represent a diverse cross-section of the population. Called “messengers of change,” the animated characters discuss core issues that threaten a lasting peace in the politically turbulent country.
After a decade-long Maoist insurgency, Nepal is in a position to forge ahead into a period of stability. The animated public service announcements — a first for Nepal — are part of the USAID-funded Nepal Transition Initiative
’s efforts to advance the country’s transition democracy by informing the public about key transition issues and processes. The short vignettes featured animated characters that meet in common Nepali settings as they discuss issues critical to the transition.
In one of the three public service announcements, the characters rest under a neighborhood tree and discuss the necessity for community involvement in reconstruction as they rebuild a community health post. In another, they talk about the importance of the Constituent Assembly — during the run up to the election period— to achieve social inclusion as they sip tea at a local tea stand.
The diverse characters capture qualities that Nepalis across the country can identify with. In addition, the announcements make information on the peace process accessible and relevant to the country’s more than 1 million citizens by illustrating how all Nepalis can engage in the momentous issues facing their society.
The public service announcements — which use animation technology similar to that used in films such as “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story” — have proved wildly popular. Following the airing of the first announcement, preliminary findings of an AC Nielsen and BBC World Service Trust survey showed that about 50 percent of people surveyed recognized the characters.
To leverage the popularity of the public service announcements, the project implemented another grant using the same characters to publish comic strips in four of Nepal’s leading dailies.