Coligo Contributor Aisha Powell (@aishapowell_)
Women’s equality is always on the forefront of human rights, especially with women being the biggest marginalized minority group in the world. However, an unlikely ally has joined the feminist movement to support women rights, and he is a bit furry. It is none other than Sesame Street’s, Zeerak, who is a four-year-old boy on Baghch-e-Simsim (local Afghanistan version of sesame street.) Zeerak will fight for gender equality and girls education on Sesame Street Afghanistan, the Huffington Post reports.
Zeerak, who made his debut June, has been a surprising symbol for women’s rights in Afghanistan. The history of Afghanistan and its women is a continuous battle between keeping traditional ideologies and modern ways of thinking. In addition the fine line between traditionalism and inferiority that women are the target. UN Data, CIA World Fact Book, and the Afghanistan Relief Organization has collected data that states 85% of women have no formal education,13% are literate, more than 50% of Afghan girls are married or engaged by 12, their life expectancy is 51 years of age and the average woman has 6 children.
The Human Rights Watch has recently reported that conditions for women were progressively getting worse. Even with the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW Law) in place, with little to no enforcement. Many women are married to older men, while they are a teenager or a young adult. They sometimes face physical and emotional abuse with many running away from forced marriages. Women are sometimes forced to have sex and even raped. In addition to educational, sexual and marriage abuses, Afghan women are often isolated, have fewer economic opportunities, forced into prostitution and are discriminated against in society. Inquistr.com has rated Afghanistan, the number 1 worst countries for women to live in.
With women being a “second-class” citizen and media highly controlled and regulated by the Ministry of Culture and Information in Afghanistan, the occurrence of a muppet advocating for women seems peculiar. Especially in times like today but Zeerak pertinence to what the future of Afghanistan could be, shows a potentially promising future.
Zeerak, who is the brother of Zari, who has been on the show for a year promoting women’s right’s, is now the face of elementary feminism. The characters will also act as an educator; teaching young girls on what equality means, how salient education is and teaching boys to find a new respect for women as well. As women gain their own independence and create movements for issues they care about, Zeerak could be the cartoon that helps men join the movement as well.