Afghan Sesame Street introduces new puppet to teach gender equality

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The show’s creators hope the latest edition to the cast, Zeerak, a bespectacled orange muppet who adores his educated older sister, will spread the message of gender equality among the young audience in the country.

Zeerak, the bespectacled orange muppet is the latest innovation from Sesame Street in Afghanistan. A children’s TV character, Zeerak, who reveres his educated older sister, has been brought on to screens to show a new generation that a woman’s place is beyond the home.

Producers are betting the new character — a four-year-old boy dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez and a waistcoast embroidered in Afghan national colours will inspire millions of children — and their parents — to see the value in education.

Zeerak’s big sister Zari, introduced last year with great fanfare as the first Afghan muppet to join internationally cherished characters such as Big Bird and Elmo, has already proved a success on the local version of Sesame Street, known as Baghch-e-Simsim.

Massood Sanjer, head of Tolo TV which airs the show, believes introducing a boy, who adores and wants to emulate his school-going, older sibling, will “indirectly teach the kids to love their sisters” in a conservative, gender-segregated nation which traditionally has invested more in its sons.

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