This New Muppet Is A Proud Little Brother Teaching An Important Lesson On Afghanistan's Version Of 'Sesame Street'

Zeerak's glasses promote acceptance, too.

An orange Muppet with glasses, regional clothing, and colorful hair has the potential to make a difference in Afghanistan's fight for gender equality. Zeerak, the aforementioned Muppet and 4-year-old little brother of last year's addition — 6-year-old Zari, the first-ever Afghan Muppet — is joining the country's co-production of Sesame Street titled Baghch-e-Simsim.

Zeerak — whose name means "smart" and "talented" in both of the country's official languages, Dari and Pashto — will appear in segments with topics ranging from gender equality to education. Zari loves her little brother and Zeerak looks up to his big sister as a role model. 



"We're thrilled to welcome Zeerak into the Baghch-e-Simsim family and continue our work to model the importance of girls' education and bring critical early learning to millions of Afghan children," Sherrie Westin from Sesame Workshop said in the same press release. "We know children learn best when they can identify with characters, and research shows that Zari has been a powerful role model for boys and girls alike. The debut of Zeerak builds on the incredible impact we've seen Zari achieve over the past year."

Not only will showing Zeerak having adoration and love for Zari play up how boys should respect girls, but education is also at the center of the relationship these siblings share. Zeerak can't wait to go to school just like Zari, hitting on the country's shortcomings in that area.

According to AFP, there's a report from the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Center that was published last year that highlights the country's literacy and education issues. It showed that 66 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls aged 15 to 24 are able to read and write. That could be the result of just 45.5 percent of Afghans attending primary school and only 27 percent going on to continue to secondary school.

Baghch-e-Simsim — which premiered back in 2011 — is having a positive effect on the country's youth. According to a Sesame Workshop-conducted survey of 1,500 parents and caregivers of children aged 3 to 7 from January 2017, Zari was the most-answered character when subjects, both male and female, were asked to name a children's TV character.

Beyond education, even Zeerak's looks will be making an small-yet-impactful difference for kids in Afghanistan. This little Muppet wears glasses, something Baghch-e-Simsim producer Wajiha Saidy explained to AFP is seen as shameful for the country's kids. So, even just seeing Zeerak wearing spectacles will normalize and destigmatize it for those watching.

This is just the latest act of inclusion for Sesame Street in its attempts to represent population segments that don't get a chance to be seen on a large scale. It recently made waves of positive change with its introduction of a Muppet with autism and the show's tweet for Pride Month, which sent the internet into overdrive.

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