This week Sesame Street announced an addition to it’s cast: a 6 year old girl named Zari from Afghanistan!
Photo by John E. Barrett
Zari, who wears a hijab, will reportedly stand as a role model for learning, health, and emotional well being. Her designers specified the importance of her gender, and want her inspire girls as well as boy.
All of the above is great news, and seeing Zari’s image shared through facebook and other social media platforms shows how excited many are for her to join the cast of Sesame Street…at least, in Afghanistan. Zari will not, at this time, join Sesame Street America. Although I’m happy that a children’s show in Afghanistan will feature an intelligent, well rounded female character I initially felt disappointed that my home, my country will not feature a positive role model who proudly wears a hijab. I admit that this feeling was selfish–just because positive change is happening in a different part of the world doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be happy! But I did wish that children in America could see Zari, and maybe grow up with less fear towards Islam and people of Middle Eastern descent then their parents.
I began reading more about Zari and what she means to Afghanistan, however it wasn’t long before I discovered another disturbing fact: Sesame Street Afghanistan receives funding from the United States State Department. What’s more, Sesame street is only in it’s 5th season. Simple math indicates that Sesame Street did not exist before the US Army involved itself in Afghanistan. When US Troops invaded Afghanistan’s land did they intend to invade their culture as well? There’s nothing wrong with Sesame Street, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a successful TV with other country’s, but if the USA is funding it are we sharing our stories or are we forcing them down someone else’s throat? It seems to me that US citizens are celebrating the inclusion of a character that has more right to be in Afghanistan then the TV show she’s in.
All that said, Zari herself should be celebrated. If American force and money is present, at least it’s taking a step towards being inclusive.