Meet Zari: The First-Ever Afghan Muppet From 'Sesame Street'

Sesame Street just went gangster on the Afghan patriarchy with the debut of Zari, the first Muppet from Afghanistan. She'll join Baghch-e-Simsim, which is that country's version of the world's best kids' show. Somewhere Malala is smiling, I just know it.

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Social activism isn't anything new for Sesame Street. They've already created Kami the HIV positive puppet for South African audiences. Israeli children got to spend time with Mahboub, an Arab. But Sesame Street's latest addition to the Muppet brood, Zari, proves that those puppets -- and the brainiacs behind her -- aren't afraid to stand up to the likes of even the Taliban to reach the kids that need them most. It's the kind of stuff Sesame Street has been expert at for more than 45 years. #Respect.

Life for women and girls in Afghanistan is pretty horrible, human rights–wise. Literacy among Afghan girls and women is among the lowest in the world, and nearly nine out of every 10 women in the country will face physical or sexual violence or be forced into a marriage. Women have no rights, can be convicted of "moral crimes" by their highly religious, male-dominated government, and are forced to endure unimaginable indignities, like being subjected to "virginity tests" before marriage.

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Now here comes 6-year-old Zari, which means "shimmering" in both the Dari and Pashto languages spoken in Afghanistan. She's ready to speak right to the heart of little girls across the war-torn county about important topics like health and education. And I can't imagine little girls who could use an empowerment pep talk more than those in Afghanistan.

Here's a glimpse of Zari, courtesy of the YouTube channel set up specially for her. She's dressed just like a girl in Afghanistan might be. I have hopes that the act of telling those little girls that they matter -- and that they should dream for themselves -- can make a huge impact not just on them, but also on the future of their country.

American audiences might be interested in turning their kids onto Zari videos on YouTube too. Not only is girl power an international language, but at a time when our political rhetoric can often be so hostile to people from that part of the world, it might be a good idea to show our own generation of kids how small our differences really are.

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Heck, if Zari likes Elmo, she must be cool, right?

Once again, those geniuses over at Sesame Street are taking on the biggest issues in our world with nothing more than a puppet and a message that love and acceptance of ourselves and each other are all we really need. (Well, that and a few language and math basics with megawatt superstar cameo appearances thrown in for fun.)

Shimmer and shine on, Zari!

 

Image via Sesame Workshop/Twitter

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