Afghanistan’s version of “Sesame Street” is introducing a new character: a 4-year-old boy named Zeerak.
The latest muppet’s name means “smart,” and he joins his sister, Zari, a 6-year-old character added last year with the goal of inspiring girls in Afghanistan. Both of the characters were created in New York, with costumes that integrate material and designs from all of the country’s major ethnic groups, the Associated Press reported.
Brad Staggs had the story as part of the daily headlines on Tuesday’s “The Morning Blaze with Doc Thompson.”
Before the U.S invasion in 2001, Afghani women were required to wear a burqa or be punished, and they couldn’t leave the house without a male escort. Women’s rights have been slowly expanding in Afghanistan since the days of the Taliban’s institution of Sharia Law. The Zeerak muppet was designed with the aim of showing parents and children a boy character who helps promote gender equality by valuing his sister, Zari, whose name means “shimmering” in Afghanistan’s two official languages.
"In a male-dominant country like Afghanistan, I think you have to do some lessons for the males to respect the females,” Massood Sanjer, who heads the TV station broadcasting the program, told the AP. “So by bringing a male character to the show who respects a female character, you teach the Afghan men that you have to respect your sister the same way as you do your brother.”
The characters on "Baghch-e-SimSim," Afghanistan’s version of “Sesame Street,” can reach kids nationwide. Television is mostly available only in urban areas, but the radio version of “Sesame Street” can be heard around the country.