Photo by White Star
Photo by White Star

KARACHI: “My two brothers are my heroes. I say so because if someone came up to them and said something bad about my character, they’d believe me rather than the person who came up to them,” said 15-year-old Shifaat Faqeer Mohammad, a student of class seven. She was speaking to Dawn at the concluding session of an eight-month project named ‘I am a Hero’ on Monday.

Held at the Kiran Foundation in Lyari, the session featured students of secondary classes till the tenth standard who took part in creating a two-part comic book by the name of ‘Lyari Guardians.’ The comic book follows the story of two children, a girl and a boy, who take it upon themselves to fight crime in the area by going up to the people in the neighbourhood to stand up to ‘the gangs.’

The characters, Sareela and John, are undergraduates at a police training academy in Lyari. Sareela is the eldest amongst her three siblings and is the only girl from the area to be part of the police training academy. John loves to cook and getting to know about different herbs and plants. Both characters don’t flinch when they have to take a stand for their area. Despite a disjointed storyline, the comic book addresses the question of the hour and that is: do we need a hero? And most importantly, who do we consider a hero?

Asking the same question, a for-profit organisation, AZcorp Entertainment, with collaborating partner Karachi Youth Initiative (KYI), started the project in three schools of Karachi in May 2016 which concluded in November last month. Apart from Lyari, the project members held sessions in Sheerin Jinnah Colony and SOS Schools in Karachi. “We found the students in Lyari a bit shy in the beginning,” says Mohammad Zain Awan, assistant project manager of I am a Hero. “Once they opened up about what’s most important to them, it was surprising yet understandable,” he added.

The concluding session began with a short film about the collaborating partners’ eight-month journey. At the end of it, students were handed over a comic book with a white t-shirt. Once the small ceremony was over, students pointed out their contributions to the comic book which included drawings of superheroes on the back page.

While speaking to Dawn, the students discussed what they considered to be “hero-like qualities.” Class seven student Shifaat said what prompted her to think of her brothers first when she was asked who her hero is, is the fact that “people usually talk more openly against girls than they do about boys. And if a family member takes a stand for you, it shuts them up for good.” Soon, a number of students joined Shifaat and shared their thoughts. A student of 6-A, 13-year-old Sadiq Siddiq said: “My parents are my heroes, and unlike what happens in households, I won’t throw them out once they get old.” Another 13-year-old student, Mohammad Asim, had a different take than his classmates. “I think all of us can be heroes.” Shahzeena Akbar Ali, a 12-year-old student of class 6-B, said that, “I think I’m my own hero. I can begin from something small and then take it from there. A hero makes things simple for herself first.”

Published in Dawn December 20th, 2016

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