‘Sesame Street’ Tackles Lead Poisoning And Female Rights In Afghanistan

Sesame Street, one of the most beloved children’s TV programs ever aired to educate and entertain children, was recently used to educate adults. HBO host John Oliver tackled the issue of lead and its dangerous effects due to poisoning with a little help from Oscar the Grouch and a few other regular Sesame Street characters, according to Fortune.

On his talk show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver presented an 18-minute-long segment about the ubiquity and dangers of lead poisoning. Known for being very adept with satire, he made the segment jokey and very approachable for just about any viewer watching it. Towards the end of his episode, he brought out Elmo, Rosita, and Oscar the Grouch to aid him in making his point about the seriousness of the lead issue and how it is not being given the attention and funding it deserves.

Oscar the Grouch spoke on the lead issue in a surprisingly impressive and well-educated manner.

“How can anyone say it’s too expensive, huh? Aren’t they aware that according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, every dollar we spend on lead paint hazard control produces returns of at least 17 to 1?”

John Oliver then made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how impressed he was receiving that kind of information from someone who lives in a trash can. As humorous as the segment was, John Oliver surely succeeded in making his point with the help of the Sesame Street characters. The appearance of the Sesame Street Muppets was a big surprise but made a little more sense once viewers remembered that Sesame Street is an HBO program now, having been acquired by the subscription station in time for the current season of the show.

The lead issue is just one of the many issues being tackled by Sesame Street. The New York Times reported that the children’s television show has recently introduced an Afghan Muppet by the name of Zari in the hopes of providing a strong character for girls to look up to in a country where women’s rights are oftentimes disrespected.

Zari’s name literally means “shimmering,” and she is a 6-year-old who will focus on empowering the health and emotional well-being of Afghan girls. The development of the character has been heralded as one of the boldest and most respectable moves by Sesame Street or any other current TV program in an attempt to give young Afghan girls a positive role model.

The development of the character started after research was conducted among local viewers on what kind of character would resonate best with viewers and their families. The debut of the character was a significant event in Afghanistan, the character’s country of origin, as the country imposes a strict limit on women’s rights and lifestyle.

Significant attempts are being made to improve the quality of life women, however, any improvements that have been made so far have been seen as fragile at best.

The creation of the character was seen by the executive president of global impact and philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, Sherrie Westin, as a way for children of both sexes to identify with a strong young female character.

Sherrie Westin spoke on the new Sesame Street character.

“It’s a way of making sure we are not just teaching but we are modeling, which is very powerful. We know children learn best when they can identify themselves with characters on the screen.”

Zari, played by a local Afghan performer, is set to appear in every Sesame Street episode shown in the local region for the new 26-episode run, which will run for 25 minutes each and will be aired every Thursday.

[Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images]

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