Sesame Street Beams American Dream to Pakistan

Manila Bulletin, April 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Sesame Street Beams American Dream to Pakistan


ISLAMABAD (AFP) - The United States has turned to oversized puppets in its newest attempt to win hearts and minds in Pakistan, funding a $20 million remake of popular children's TV programme Sesame Street.The US show that popularised characters like Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the Cookie Monster is being remade for a Pakistani audience, to promote "shared values and ideas" said USAID's education chief in Islamabad, Larry Dolan.Girl power and tolerance are among the messages to be spread by colourful puppets such as "Rani", a science-loving 6-year-old girl with plaits who is friends with a teenage bookworm and a hard-working donkey.But in a deeply conservative Muslim country where the Taliban bomb girls' schools and millions of women live in "purdah", meaning that they are concealed from men outside their family, such values are hardly universal.The "Pakistan Children's Television" show will broadcast 78 episodes from September, but in an impoverished country of up to 180 million people, only three million children are estimated to have access to the small screen.The show's makers hope to reach 700,000 children and 300,000 parents in total with the help of spin-off projects -- 600 live performances are planned across 90 districts, and books and multi-media versions are in the works.Dolan says the show has entertained not only the West for more than 40 years, but been used to striking effect in other developing nations -- encouraging understanding of HIV in South Africa and girls' freedom in Egypt."It's role is simply -- look at the society here and intolerance lies at the root of many many complex problems. The approach we are taking here with Pakistan TV is to promote tolerance," said Dolan.Rani's father is a flower gardener and her mother a housewife, not educated but "adamant her daughter should have every opportunity in life," according to a written brief of the characters, shown to AFP.The donkey longs to be a pop star, "illustrating how, through hard work all dreams are possible" says the brief, encapsulating the American dream.Dolan said USAID was giving $20 million to the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop in the city of Lahore, the creative directors of the show. …

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