The April 11, 2016 New York Times ran an article “New Muppet Helps Give Afghan Girls Role Model” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/world/asia/afghan-sesame-street-introduces-zari-a-muppet-and-role-model-for-girls.html?_r=0, which is also the photo source).
“Zari” pictured at right will be appearing on “Baghch-eSimsim” or Sesame Garden in Afghanistan. The new character is being introduced to provide a role model for girls in a country not exactly known for its ‘equal opportunity’.
I’m a big fan of Sesame Street, my kids grew up on it and I consider the Puppet Museum in Atlanta as one of my favorite places. I also believe that we acquire many of our values and habits while we’re kids, so the concept of using entertainment to convey messages and values makes a great deal of sense.
In fact, two years ago I did a posting on Palestinian children’s programming (see: http://psyopregiment.blogspot.com/2013/04/early-influence-is-hard-to-overcome.html).
Going back to Afghanistan for a moment – who is watching? According to the INTERNEWS project (http://data.internews.org/af-media/, the map source) 45% of the country owns a TV set, in a country where illiteracy is pegged at 41%.
It should also be noted that there is a spillover factor to adult viewership as well. We could speculate that these 25 minute programs are aired during the day and that most of the adults home at that time are women giving Zari a twofer in empowerment messaging.
It would be interesting to see if these programs are watched and if they have any long-term effects. If anyone has any research or references in the area of the influence of children’s programming – I’d appreciate the pointer.