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Free comic books featuring fictional, locally-originated heroines.

Our group discussed how girls in many low-income neighborhoods are raised to be subservient and quiet. Many do not stand up from themselves and fail to report abuse. Even during an attack, many women do not have the courage to yell and make noise. Our idea is to give girls a relatable role model who can instill self-respect and a sense of empowerment. An enjoyable and cheap to produce form factor for these heroines can be comic books. The origin of this idea is a variant of Ms Marvel: a 16 year old muslim crime-fighting heroine (see pictures). Using her as the lead character in South Asia would be great because she already has a fair amount of international recognition, but new characters can be created by local artists as well.

Photo of Neil Sharma
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Part of this is finding the right heroine (or gathering local artists to create one). Local artists can collaborate on characters/stories until one with a right cultural/religious spin is found. 

If something takes off, relevant merchandise can be distributed as a symbol of support. The first that comes to mind are simple yet distinctive bangles, similar to Livestrong's.


Explain your idea in one sentence.

Distribute free comics and posters featuring locally-relevant heroines to help young girls build self-confidence and a sense of empowerment.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

Our goal is to change gender expectations by making women feel more independent, capable, and intolerant of social malfeasances.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

Put a poster and a stack of comics and hand them out to girls in low income neighborhoods. Have 2-3 editions, possibly once a week, and then ask the girls for feedback.

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea have the potential to impact the lives of low-income women and girls living in urban areas?

Yes, the idea clearly targets low-income women and girls living in urban areas. - 66.7%

The idea targets women and girls but isn’t necessarily focused on those living in low-income urban areas. - 33.3%

The idea targets people living in low-income urban areas but doesn’t seem to benefit women and girls specifically. - 0%

2. Does this idea describe a set of next steps and a timeline to accomplish them?

The idea clearly outlines next steps, the resources and team needed to execute them and a timeline to accomplish this. - 0%

The idea gives a broad explanation of what it hopes to accomplish but there is no clear timeline or activities to reach its desired goal. - 50%

The idea has not clearly articulated what the next steps are. - 50%

3. How feasible would it be to implement a pilot of this idea in the next 12-18 months?

Very feasible – the next steps described in the contribution seem achievable in this time period. - 25%

A pilot appears feasible but more work needs to be done to figure out how it would be executed. - 50%

The idea is not ready to be piloted yet – the concept needs several more months of user feedback and prototyping to be ready for a pilot. - 25%

4. Does this idea bring a new and fresh approach to the city or region in which it’s set?

Yes, this idea appears to be new and innovative! I’m not aware of other ideas in this city or region that address this need using a similar approach. - 75%

There are other initiatives doing similar work in this area – but this idea targets a new group or has an updated approach. - 25%

I can think of many initiatives addressing the same need using a similar approach in the same region. - 0%

5. How scalable is this idea across regions and cultures?

This is an idea that could help women and girls in many different cities. I can see it being implemented across multiple regions and cultures. - 50%

Maybe but I’d imagine it would need very significant changes. - 50%

The idea is really only suited for one specific region / population. - 0%

6. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

I love this idea! - 50%

I liked it but preferred others. - 50%

It didn't get me so excited. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Karena Schroeder

To add to my comment earlier, what about building upon previous models? The content isn't 100% what your initiative is about, but "Persepolis "was a beautiful story and work of art about a girl/woman with guts in Iran.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Would be great if you can fill out the two additional sections in the submission form: Show Us What Implementation Might Look Like + Get a User's Perspective on Your Idea. We're sure you've got further insights to share for both sections, ahead of our Evaluation phase which starts in a couple of days.

Photo of Ariam Mogos

Hi Neil and team! I love this project. I think the arts are sorely underused to drive socioeconomic change in developing and developed countries. Have you thought about crowdsourcing ideas from girls and boys about which traits/characteristics they believe are valuable in a role model/heroine? Passing these findings on to the local artists to develop the heroine might better connect youth to the character and her stories. Incorporating a participatory process into your proposal might also give the youth a sense of ownership over the comic and secure a strong readership. Great work and good luck!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks can see who they're collaborating with here. Think skills, experience, passions & more!

Photo of Neysan Zölzer

Fantastic! I love the idea of using art and media to change how women are portrayed. As you already described, I think a local context for the women is very important. This thing could be huge!

Photo of Karena Schroeder

This is a really great idea! It will provide excellent role models for women and girls.

One thought that I have is about product being free right from the start. Product that is completely free might be interpreted as worthless, even immediately. Perhaps you can stratify your offerings. The posters/signage/billboards/media placement would obviously be free for anyone to look at and enjoy. The individual pamphlets/booklets could be offered "for sale," maybe a short activity to promote the campaign. The idea is to make it "cost" something to get, but no money and "affordable" time. Hence, the comic books could be valued.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congratulations on making it to the Women's Safety Challenge Refinement list! We really like the idea of creating locally-relevant role models for women and girls in low-income countries. We would be really interested to hear more about how you might develop these characters with local communities and test their 'personalities' with potential readers. There have been a few attempts to use comics to deliver educational messages in other countries and it might be interesting for you to spend some time learning about those initiatives during this Refinement phase to understand how you might take this idea forwards: What partners would you need? How might the production and distribution of these comics be funded over the longer term?
For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out and catch our Tools for Refinement at

Photo of John Mulvey

Great idea! You could also consider approaching local public schools for including these comics as part of the curriculum in addition to distributing them among girls in low-income neighborhood.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Neil, this is a great idea to empower women and girls through story telling. In addition to creating super heroines such as Ms. Marvel, have you considered featuring tales of real women who have accomplished heroic things in real life? A great deal of folk tales and super hero narratives are rooted in the true-stories of figures who have faced great adversity. Featuring tales of women in the local community as super heroines can inspire young girls to seek out role models in their daily lives. The comic book format can be a platform for women leaders to reach out to the younger girl generation. This is a great idea and I'll look forward to where you take it.

Photo of Rohith Rai

Hi Neil,

We are a team, who have the same idea as your's, we picked up some common names to the characters, and would like to spread awareness over sex education for children. It would be great to include these comic strips along with the stories. Here is our post.
Let us know how you guys are prototyping this idea, so that we might give out our ideas and we can work on this concept together.

Photo of Karolle Rabarison

Hey Neil – I love the concept of storytelling for social change, and this comic book idea is right up that alley. Wanted to check if you've had a chance to poke around for local artists or writers who might be up for collaborating to take this forward? Or develop a trial run of a story?

Photo of Vishal Jodhani

Neil, absolutely love the idea! I strongly believe in the power of stories to drive change and the medium you've suggested seems like a great one. I also like the "free" angle you've mentioned as this will help increase the reach. Digging the idea of "locally relevant heroines" - the overall themes and story would potentially traverse cultures, but the element of customisation is powerful! Really looking forward to see this idea grow and come to life!

Photo of Nicki Goh

I think this is a great idea and it reminds me of a similar initiative in Kenya called Shujaaz. The interesting thing about comics and magazines is the sheer scale of the readership - many people can read a single comic if it gets passed around between friends. It could be a great initiative to involve the potential audience in crafting storylines and new characters.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Wow! Shujaaz looks awesome: You might also find inspiration from Yoza: which also got their audiences involved in suggesting story lines.

Photo of Michael St.Germain

I like the idea very much...
Comics have a way of spreading quickly and informally. I would like propose a little "add on" to your idea. If possible, incorporate characters from myths, local legends and folk stories into the comic and have them 1.) encourage all readers to treat each other with respect and 2.) encourage the heroine to be brave and patient on her quest.