Sesame Street is introducing their first Afgan character and she’s an empowered young school girl.
The popular children’s show has debuted new puppet Zari on the local version of the show Baghch-e-Simsim, and hope she will encourage women and girls to get excited about education in a country where many females don't get one.
Appearing alongside Elmo on the program’s official Twitter page it was announced that, “We're excited to have Zari in the family! She's an incredible role model for kids around the world!”
Sherrie Westin from Sesame Workshop told Reuters it was “so powerful that the first Afghan Muppet is a girl”.
“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.”
It is estimated that around one third of young girls are not attending primary school in Afghanistan and according to the UN, illiteracy rates among women are as high as 87 percent.
The six-year-old character, whose clothes have been specially designed and made unique to her, follows in the footsteps of other multicultural characters such as Chamki from India, Khokha from Eygpt and Kami from South Africa. She will appear alongside international characters on the local version of the program which, with an 81 percent audience share, is the most watched children’s show in the country.
As part of her role she will be involved in segments that explore female empowerment, national identity, health and well-being while also speaking to a host of professionals including a pediatrician, to ask them about their jobs.
Afghanistan’s education ministry was consulted during the puppet’s creation to try and reduce any cultural resistance to her.
However her reception on Twitter at least, has so far been mixed. While many are overwhelmingly positive, one user reacted by saying, “Does she explode in a market” and another remarked, “I just hope they'll keep Zari's "angry" brother away from their first gay Muppet”.