In an effort to boost education in Pakistan, the U.S. is donating $20 million to fund a local version of "Sesame Street," set to air later this year.
As the Guardian is reporting, the remake of the popular children's program will swap the traditional New York setting for a Pakistani village. Though the new version is not expected to feature Cookie Monster or Big Bird, it will instead focus on Rani, a six-year-old female Muppet with pigtails and a blue-and-white school uniform, who will speak in Urdu.
"She will represent what little girls have to go through in this gender-biased society‚" Imraan Peerzada‚ writer for the local series‚ tells Newsweek Pakistan. He went on to note that the show will inevitably include "a gentle treatment" on the nation's battle with militancy, though direct references to religion are currently out of the question. "We are not avoiding religion‚ but we don't want to label children...the basic learning tools of literacy‚ numeracy‚ hygiene‚ and healthy eating have to be in place first."
The Pakistani "Sesame Street" will reportedly join co-productions in 30 other countries around the world, including Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa. Elmo -- arguably the American version's most popular character in recent years -- is expected to get a Pakistani counterpart, with local personality touches, according to the Guardian.
USAid, the development arm of the U.S. government which is funding the project, says the program is just "part of a series of ventures that is aimed at developing the educational infrastructure," in Pakistan, where many children have limited access to schooling, according to the BBC.