Baghch-e-Simsim, Afghanistan's Sesame Street show, just introduced a new muppet named Zeerak, the Associated Press reports. Not only is he adorable, but he's also helping an important cause. The character, the brother of the older muppet Zari, is there to encourage respect for women.
"Zeerak is an energetic and eager four-year-old who looks up to his big sister Zari!" as the show describes him on its Instagram page. "He can’t wait to go to school with his sister when he gets older."
In a country where fewer than 40% of kids finish school — and two-thirds of those who don't are girls — Zeerak's meant to be a role model, according to a Sesame Workshop press release. "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," it reads.
He'll also be teaching kids about the value of education. In one episode, for example, Zeerak greets his big sis when she gets home from school, and she explains to him why school is so important and why he should start thinking about his career goals. In another, he says, "I love Zari so much and as much as I love Zari, I love her friends too." Both Muppets are also meant to promote tolerance for one another's differences. Their clothing is an amalgamation of designs worn by different cultural groups within Afghanistan.
"In a male-dominant country like Afghanistan, I think you have to do some lessons for the males to respect the females," Massood Sanjer, the head of the show's Afghanistan broadcaster TOLO TV, told the Associated Press. "So by bringing a male character to the show who respects a female character, you teach the Afghan men that you have to respect your sister the same way as you do your brother."