Sesame Workshop Debuts New Afghan Muppet, a 4-year-old Boy Named Zeerak, on Co-Production Baghch-e-Simsim
SESAME WORKSHOP DEBUTS NEW AFGHAN MUPPET, A 4-YEAR-OLD BOY NAMED ZEERAK,
ON CO-PRODUCTION BAGHCH-E-SIMSIM
Baghch-e-Simsim Season 6 Features New Muppet Aimed at Promoting Gender Equity,
Airing on TOLO TV, LEMAR, and Stations Nationwide
(New York, NY and Kabul, Afghanistan – June 29, 2017) – Following last year’s successful debut of the first Afghan Muppet, a 6-year-old girl named Zari, Sesame Workshop is proud to introduce Zeerak, her friendly and curious younger brother. Zeerak will appear in Season 6 of Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden), the local Afghan co-production of Sesame Street, premiering today. The introduction of Zeerak is a continuation of Baghch-e-Simsim’s work to promote gender equity, and Season 6 will feature segments that model boys’ respect for girls and show Zeerak’s love for his big sister. As a young boy who aspires to go to school with his sister when he gets older, Zeerak can be a strong role model for children in a country where over 60% of children – two thirds of them girls – are not able to complete school.
Since the project’s premier in 2011, Baghch-e-Simsim has promoted early childhood development, literacy, and numeracy, with a focus on girls’ empowerment, mutual respect and understanding, diversity, and national identity. The Baghch-e-Simsim TV and radio programs are available in both Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan’s two official languages.
Zeerak, which means “smart” and “talented” in both Dari and Pashto, will be featured in segments that tackle topics including tolerance, respect, and gender equity. An adorable orange Muppet with glasses and regional clothing, Zeerak is an energetic and eager 4-year-old who is learning how to read and count and loves painting and playing games with Zari. Zari adores her little brother, and Zeerak, in turn, looks up to Zari as a role model. In one segment called “Going to School,” Zeerak eagerly awaits Zari’s return from school and is excited to hear about her day. Zari explains that Zeerak will have the opportunity to go to school too someday, and that working hard in school will help him achieve his dreams. Zari encourages Zeerak to think about what he might become when he grows up, and offers to teach him a few lessons before he’s ready to go to school himself.
A January 2017 survey of over 1,500 parents and caregivers of children ages 3-7 across Afghanistan shows that Baghch-e-Simsim is having a positive impact and reaching more children and families than ever before. Zari was the most mentioned character when participants were asked to name children’s TV characters, and she is beloved by both boys and girls, who together are vital in the effort to shift societal perceptions of girls and what they’re capable of. Baghch-e-Simsim has 81% brand awareness among those surveyed and, among children who watch TV, over 80% report watching the program; 3.1 million children ages 3-7 are tuning in, up 45% from 2015. And Baghch-e-Simsim isn’t only engaging children—more than 70% of parents and caregivers watch the program alongside children, with Baghch-e-Simsim surpassing other Afghan children’s shows in terms of adult-child co-viewership. Research has shown that parent engagement with a child during viewing increases learning outcomes.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Zeerak into the Baghch-e-Simsim family and continue our work to model the importance of girls’ education and bring critical early learning to millions of Afghan children,” said Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. “We know children learn best when they can identify with characters, and research shows that Zari has been a powerful role model for boys and girls alike. The debut of Zeerak builds on the incredible impact we’ve seen Zari achieve over the past year.”
In conjunction with the launch of Season 6, Baghch-e-Simsim is finding ways to reach and teach greater audiences:
- A new mobile service will enable children and their caregivers to listen to Baghch-e-Simsim radio episodes free of charge 24/7 by simply dialing 1234.
- New video content and regular posts will be available on Baghch-e-Simsim Facebook and YouTube.
- Community engagement events in 16 provinces in Afghanistan will bring Baghch-e-Simsim to children, families, and teachers throughout the country. Events include rural and urban listening circles with mother-child pairs, and kindergarten listening circles with teachers and students to promote increased use of games, songs, and child-centered activities in the classroom. Additionally, Baghch-e-Simsim community viewings bring together up to 400 children at a time to watch episodes and participate in corresponding activities to reinforce educational messages. Community viewings have the potential to reach 45,000 children throughout Afghanistan by the end of 2017.
“We are excited to continue our work with Sesame Street. As a young Afghan boy who loves and respects his older sister Zari, Zeerak will promote gender equity and education for all children,” said Saad Mohseni, Chairman and CEO of MOBY Group, the parent company of TOLO TV and LEMAR. “Given Zari’s extraordinary debut in 2016, we are confident that Zeerak will follow in her footsteps and that together they will have a strong positive impact on Afghanistan.”
“We are delighted to continue our long-running successful partnership with Baghch-e-Simsim with the introduction of Zeerak, and are confident he will engage children in our radio episodes and community engagement activities,” said Dr. Anwar Jamili, Country Director of Equal Access Afghanistan. “Just as Zari thrilled our young listeners when she arrived last year, Zeerak is bound to be a big hit. We look forward to bringing Zeerak to life in our radio programs and introducing him to children around the country.”
Starting June 29, Baghch-e-Simsim will be broadcast six days a week on TV and radio. New TV episodes will air on TOLO TV and LEMAR every Thursday and Friday during the “Children’s Hour” from 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, with repeated episodes airing on Saturday and Sunday, and past episodes airing on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday. New Baghch-e-Simsim radio episodes will air Thursdays and Fridays on national, regional, and local radio stations nationwide.
Sesame Workshop, in partnership with the Moby Group, has produced 156 TV episodes for TOLO TV and LEMAR, two of Afghanistan’s largest TV networks that capture nearly two-thirds of the national audience share, and over 70% of the show is produced locally. Since its launch in 2012, 234 episodes of the Baghch-e-Simsim radio program have been produced in partnership with Equal Access, reaching children who may not have access to a television.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at Baghch-e-Simsim here.
About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit media and educational organization behind Sesame Street, the pioneering television show that has been reaching and teaching children since 1969. Today, Sesame Workshop is an innovative force for change, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We’re active in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically-funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities we serve. For more information, please visit sesameworkshop.org.
Sesame Workshop, New York
Lapis Communications, Afghanistan