Sesame Street Is Coming to Pakistan
Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. Yes.
Sesame Street has won over the hearts and minds of children all over the world. But how will it play in Pakistan? A new version of the show is being produced in Pakistan and will teach the same lessons as other editions of the show, including the introduction of one letter and one number. The show seeks to be distinctly Middle-Eastern and hopes to promote tolerance and gender equality by featuring several strong female characters, including a new Muppet character Rani, who is six years old and the daughter of a peasant farmer. Rani will set an example for other children as a curious and inquisitive girl with questions about the world.
Funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the series is expected to debut in the fall and comes at a time when Pakistan’s educational system is struggling.
According to Faizaan Peerzada, the head of a Pakistani theatre group that is collaborating with Sesame Street‘s American creators:
‘The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning. And inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated.”
So far, U.S. efforts to undermine al-Qaeda’s influence in Pakistan have been somewhat ineffective, and extreme religious conservatism and economic troubles are a direct result of that. And that is a formula that keeps children out of school. There are plans to broadcast the show to 95 million people in Pakistan, even in the most remote villages, using mobile vans where electricity isn’t available.
International versions of Sesame Street have proven to be very successful, even groundbreaking. You probably remember when it came to South Africa and debuted its HIV-positive Muppet, Kami, whose goal was to take down the stigma of AIDS. The Pakistani edition of Sesame Street is also not the first Middle-Eastern version of the series. In 1977, Iftah Yah Simsim debuted in Kuwait and was the first version to be produced in Arabic. As of this year, Sesame Street is broadcast in over 140 countries and has 20 internationally-produced versions.
So, how do you say “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” in Urdu? Maybe Elmo will tell us, because he’s on board for the Pakistani version too.