Sesame Street, the children’s educational TV show beloved across the globe has acquired a brand new character. Zari is the first Afghan muppet, and will appear on the Afghan spinoff, Baghch-e-Simsim, to promote female empowerment. After a five-year run, it’s the most-watched show for young children in Afghanistan.
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) April 7, 2016
“It’s so powerful that the first Afghan Muppet is a girl,” says Sherrie Westin, executive vice-president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “The exciting part about Zari is that she is modelling for young girls that it is wonderful to go to school and that it’s OK to dream about having a career.”
Zari’s name means ‘shimmering’ in Dari and Pashto, and she will wear both casual and traditional clothes. She is a six-year-old girl who will speak directly to viewers and is expected to interview a variety of Afghan professionals. In one episode she speaks to a doctor to find out how she can become one herself.
The reaction to the new character has been largely positive, with figures such as Chelsea Clinton praising Sesame Workshop’s creation.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 12, 2016
@SesameWorkshop Thank You for humanizing the situation for children. I wish there would have been a Vietnamese character growing up.
— Mai Vu (@BoulderMai) April 7, 2016
— Carolyn Davis (@carolyntweets) April 7, 2016
Westin added, “It’s a way of making sure we are not just teaching but we are modeling, which is very powerful. We know children learn best when they can identify themselves with characters on the screen.”