In more than 150 countries around the world, Sesame Workshop is reaching girls who may have no other means of education. Investing in girls' education isn't just the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do for overall economic and social development. From India to Mexico to Afghanistan-and in many other countries-local versions of Sesame Street are teaching basic skills that are critical for both girls and boys, in a context that values women and girls and their contributions to society.
More than 130 million girls around the world are not in school-and the adult illiteracy rate for women is nearly twice that of men. What causes this disparity? Girls often face barriers to education due to cultural conventions. Early marriage, gender discrimination, lack of adequate sanitation, and differences in how parents value educating girls and boys keep girls from starting or continuing school.
Local versions of Sesame Street are designed to counter negative attitudes and the gender gaps that stem from girls' limited educational opportunities. From clever Chamki on India's Galli Galli Sim Sim to curious Zari on Afghanistan's Baghch-e-Simsim the powerful girl characters featured in our radio programs, print materials, community viewings, and other mediums helps empower girls, while also opening minds, influencing attitudes, and planting the seeds for long-term societal change.
When girls are seen learning and succeeding, social expectations shift. Afghan children who watch Baghch-e-Simsim test 29% higher on gender equity attitudes than those who don't watch. Fathers have changed their minds about sending daughters to school after watching the show, based on qualitative research. In Afghanistan, where 3.1 million children age 3 to 7 children watch Baghch-e-Simsim, female characters like Zari inspire an entire generation of girls and boys to see each other as equals.