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Only 31 percent of Afghan adults are literate, so new Muppet promotes education, gender equality

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Posted at 9:35 AM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 09:35:50-04

Sesame Street is going international in an effort to promote gender equality and education in Afghanistan.

The Afghan version of the beloved American children’s television program has introduced a 6-year-old Muppet named Zari and her 4-year-old brother Zeerak to show that women can be as heroic as boys, CNN reports.

Last season on "Baghch-e-Simsim" (Sesame Garden), Zari was featured in segments on girls’ empowerment, national identity, physical health and social and emotional well-being. 

A 2017 survey showed the program reaches 3.1 million kids age 3 through 7 in Afghanistan, according to CNN. Zari had the highest likability among kids’ TV characters, and there was little difference between how much boys and girls liked her.

Segments featuring Zeerak, who was introduced last week, will touch on respect, tolerance and gender equality as he admires his big sister as a role model.

"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,” said Sherrie Westin, an executive vice president for Sesame Workshop.

Promoting education in Afghanistan is crucial, CNN points out, since just 31 percent of the adult population and only 17 percent of women are literate.