Comic books and cartoons may not be your go-to resource for lessons on freedom and human rights. However, one TFAS alumna is proving that cartoons can be just that.
As a practitioner of law in the High Courts of India, Kanan Dhru (AIPE 12) was disappointed to learn that many people didn’t understand the basic laws they encountered every day.
“Many people didn’t understand fundamental laws or how the legal system worked,” Dhru said. “I realized that people do not know about laws because the laws seem very complex.”
With a passion for making ideas accessible, Dhru came up with a unique idea for making these concepts speak to everyone, including children. After completing her summer in Hong Kong with the Asia Institute for Political Economy (AIPE) with TFAS, Dhru teamed up with her sister, Kelly, to found Lawtoons, a comic series that uses storytelling and cartoons to teach the “Golden Triangle of Indian Law:” rights to equality, speech and life.
“One of the biggest ideas we had for Lawtoons was to communicate that laws can be made simple,” Dhru said. “We wanted to convey that legal information can be easy to understand, and people should be inquisitive about it.”
In less than three years since its founding, the Dhru sisters have already seen great success with Lawtoons. As it has gained popularity over time, many children have benefitted from its lessons.
“Kids are so excited about Lawtoons that they have been making their own comics about law,” Dhru said.
One 13-year-old student who is helping with Lawtoons got inspired to make her own constitution for her classroom.
“She added different rights, freedoms and gave powers to different authorities and everything,” Dhru said. “Her school has officially adopted her constitution, and the Election Commission of India is thinking about making it a model constitution across the country!”
Dhru says this is just one of the many ways Lawtoons is making an impact on young minds.
While Lawtoons is now helping kids understand laws and their basic rights, Dhru says the road hasn’t always been easy. Lawtoons has succeeded because of the support of many people.
What started as a crowdfunding campaign project has now raised more than $5,000 online. Dhru says the journey of trying to stand up for a cause like this can often seem lonely and intimidating.
“Sometimes you wonder if you can even make an impact,” Dhru said. “At a time like that for me, AIPE and TFAS came along and said “we believe in you”.”
Dhru says she is grateful to TFAS for allowing her to gain an exposure of new ideas through different thought processes.
“TFAS has been a great motivating experience for me,” Dhru said. “To go to Hong Kong and to meet all of the wonderful people and have a place where we could discuss new ideas was amazing.”
Dhru also says the lessons she learned at TFAS helped her understand how an organization like the Lawtoons project fits into the economy.
“At TFAS, one of the things I learned was to see how the market economy functions and how even organizations that are based on spreading awareness can have market solutions,” Dhru said.
In addition to her work with Lawtoons, Dhru founded the legal reform thinktank, Research Foundation for Governance in India. She is a law-graduate from the London School of Economics and has worked with the National Knowledge Commission, a prime minister’s advisory body in New Delhi, and the World Heath Organization in Geneva. In 2012, she was named one of 37 “Indians of Tomorrow” featured by India Today.
As she continues her work to make laws more universally accessible, Dhru says she is thankful for the support system that TFAS has brought to her during her journey.
“I would just like to express my deepest gratitude to TFAS for empowering us to continue working on our journeys and to stay focused,” Dhru said. “TFAS has been a really huge confidence booster for me.”