Meet Zari, The First Feminist Muppet From Afghanistan

This is awesome on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin:

Afghanistan is getting its first home-grown “Sesame Street” Muppet – a six-year-old girl called Zari.

Zari, a curious and lively girl whose name means “shimmering” in the Dari and Pashto languages, makes her debut on Thursday on the “Baghch-e-Simsim” Afghan local co-production of the long-running U.S. educational TV show for pre-schoolers.

zari Sesame Street

According to Sesame Worksop, the goal behind Zari is to teach Afghani girls that there is more to life than being a wife and mother, a tall order for a country besieged by Islamic fundamentalists dedicated to reducing women to little more than broodmares. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to give it their all:

Zari will be featured in “Sesame Street” segments about health, exercise and well-being, and will interview a doctor and other professionals to find out what she would need to do to become one herself.

“The exciting part about Zari is that she is modeling for young girls that it is wonderful to go to school and that it’s ok to dream about having a career,” Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy, told Reuters.

“It’s so powerful that the first Afghan Muppet is a girl,” Westin added.

Sesame Street is a very powerful tool to teach those evil liberal values of fairness and equality and how to be a better human being. Or did you think Republicans wanted to cut its funding for no reason? I imagine that the Taliban, sill very active in Afghanistan, will take the same dim view of Zari as Republicans take of Sesame Street in general. These are, after all, the same people that shot Malala Yousafzai, a 15 year old girl at the time, in the head for daring to go to school and encourage other girls to do the same.

But if Zari seems like propaganda, you’d be right:

She joins “Baghch-e-Simsin” at the beginning of its fifth season. The show, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of State, is the most watched TV program among young children in Afghanistan, where 81 percent of children aged three to seven have seen it, according to Sesame Workshop.

The idea is to overcome cultural taboos against girls going to school and building careers for themselves. And apparently it’s working according to Westin. This is how you defeat religious extremists; not with bombs and blood but with joy and love. In a war of ideas, freedom will win out. It’s not as “cool” and doesn’t make the military-industrial complex rich, but it’s far more effective.

Featured image courtesy of Sesame Workshop