Season 6 of Afghanistan’s popular children’s TV program Baghch-e-Simsim will feature a new Muppet named Zeerak – Zari’s friendly, younger brother
Sesame Workshop Debuts New Afghan Muppet – A 4-Year-Old Boy
Following last year’s successful debut of the first Afghan Muppet, a six-year-old girl named Zari, Sesame Garden, or Baghch-e-Simsim in Afghanistan – on Sunday introduced Zeerak, Zari’s 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 Sunday.
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 percent 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.
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.
Currently 3.1 million children ages 3 - 7 are tuning in, up 45 percent from 2015.
And Baghch-e-Simsim isn’t only engaging children - more than 70 percent 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.
“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,” he said.
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.