New boy Sesame Street Muppet in Afghanistan promotes gender equality


This will not go over well in a country ruled by Sharia law.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Last year, Afghanistan’s version of “Sesame Street” introduced a little girl character aimed at inspiring girls in the deeply conservative Muslim nation. Now a new muppet is joining the cast: her brother, who will show boys the importance of respecting women.

Zeerak, whose name means “Smart” in Afghanistan’s two official languages, is a 4-year-old boy who enjoys studying and learning. He joins 6-year-old sister Zari, whose name means “Shimmering,” on Afghanistan’s version of the show, “Baghch-e-SimSim,” or “Sesame Garden.”

Both muppets wear traditional Afghan clothing — the baggy trousers and long embroidered shirt known as a shalwar kameez for him and colorful native dresses and a cream-colored hijab, or headscarf, for her. They join the rest of “Sesame Street’s” multi-cultural line-up, which includes muppets specially created for local versions of the program in Bangladesh, Egypt and India.

Massood Sanjer, the head of TOLO TV, which broadcasts the program in Afghanistan, said that after the overwhelmingly positive response to Zari from both parents and children, the goal was to create a boy character to emphasize the importance of gender equality and education in a country where the vast majority of girls don’t go to school and the literacy rate for women is among the lowest in the world.

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