PESHAWAR: An idea to use trucks as billboards to promote the rights of girls is gaining ground in the country. Trucks in Pakistan are now seen carrying huge paintings that promote girls’ education and inheritance equality, and condemn practices such as the exchange of brides to settle disputes, Swara (a custom where a girl is married off as punishment for a crime committed by a male relative) and child marriages.
Haji Khan, a truck driver, decided to change the painting on his vehicle from that of a film star to the portrait of a girl carrying a school bag with a smile on her face. The picture will also carry an inscription that says “education is the basic right of a girl. Send your daughters to school”.
Drivers mostly prefer pictures of female actresses, gun-toting heroes or politicians, Khan said. However, when he was guided by a truck painter at a workshop in Peshawar to imagery that would help curb negative practices, he agreed and accepted the suggestion.
“Truck art is a big source of publicity as the vehicle roams from Khyber to Karachi and its target audience is the rural population where most of these evil practices prevail,” said Samar Minallah, a social worker, anthropologist, documentary filmmaker and the architect of this programme.
Minallah said she got the idea through her discussions with organisations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Unesco, and she succeeded getting them to finance a project to spread awareness through truck art.
Minallah said a truck workshop owner Hayat Khan extended his cooperation and played a pivotal role in convincing truck drivers to change the paintings.
ADB and Unesco both signed MoUs with Hayat Khan for payment of paintings on trucks promoting girls’ rights and education, Minallah said.
She said Hayat Khan talks to every arriving truck driver to his workshop about the initiative and payment of the painting is made by ADB and Unesco.
Minallah said drivers are showing interest and contacting workshop owners for painting of their trucks.
She said arrangements were also made for truck art in Manshera for coverage of Kohistan and other districts of upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the education of girls is dismal.
For coverage of central Punjab, trucks were also provided the facility at Multan city, she said.
“Truck art is our profession and after launching of this project, we are now painting good pictures having a public message,” observed Hayat Khan.
About the impact, he said, truck art has a positive feedback because its viewers are huge and across the country.
Once a truck start plying from Peshawar, it stops in Karachi while passing through different cities and villages, Hayat continued.
So our effort will bear fruitful results in educating people and the day is not away when girls in Pakistan will get their due rights in education, inheritance, jobs etc, Hayat hoped.