Sesame Street Introduces New Afghan Character

April 8th 2016

Almie Rose

"Sesame Street" mission to bring knowledge, laughter and education to young children is now expanding in Afghanistan, but not without some controversy.

Zari, a 6-year-old Afghan girl, is the latest addition to the "Baghch-e-Simsim" neighborhood (that's Afghanistan's version of "Sesame Street") and she's on a mission to empower all the little girls who watch her on TV.

Twitter, whose unofficial motto could be "this is why we can't have nice things," did not have the kindest things to say about Zari.




Perhaps in anticipation of such backlash, the producers of "Baghch-e-Simsim" have teamed up with Afghanistan's Ministry of Education, according to The Daily Mail. Sherrie Westin, Vice President of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, describes the importance of Zari to the Mail, saying, "[...] she is modeling for young girls that it is wonderful to go to school and that it's ok to dream about having a career."

According to Entertainment Weekly, Zari will be that model for young girls by encouraging them to take care of their health via segments on the show like "Zari Exercises," in which Zari shows the benefits of physical fitness, and "Zari Interviews A Doctor," in which, well, Zari interviews a doctor.

Considering that Afghanistan has about 5 million children under age 5 and yet one-third of those children are not in school (according to the Mail), Baghch-e-Simsin, now on its 5th season, is a valuable resource for Afghan children who may not have another opportunity at education. And Zari is an important part of educating those kids, the show believes.

"Part of the power of the broadcast and Zari's potential as a role model is to reach children and parents where they may not have access to other educational content," Westin told Reuters. "It's so powerful that the first Afghan Muppet is a girl."