The US children’s show has created twins Noor and Aziz to deliver early years education to Rohingya children living in the world’s largest refugee camp.
Sesame Street is no stranger to stepping back from the sunny, carefree world of kid’s entertainment, often reflecting on the raw reality of life for vulnerable children.
The show, which just last year debuted a new initiative providing free resources for community providers on topics such as divorce, trauma, and homelessness, strives to raise awareness about these problems to its large audience.
In the past, Sesame Street has successfully championed diversity and inclusion, making it a wonderful alternative to regular, more scaled back children’s television. While a few of the themes it has chosen to explore have been met with backlash, its intent to educate young (and old) audiences on important and less discussed issues certainly seems to be having a significant impact.
Most recently, non-profit organisation Sesame Workshop (responsible for the production of Sesame Street) unveiled its first-ever Rohingya muppets in an effort to help thousands of refugee children cope with the trauma of living in the world’s largest refugee settlement.
Cox’s Bazar – as it’s locally referred to – has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19, with aid agencies warning earlier this year that the risks of child marriage and trafficking increased tenfold when youth services shut and camp activities were scaled back.
At present, an estimated one million Rohingya refugees are living in the overcrowded sprawling camps in southern Bangladesh, after fleeing a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military in 2017.
In what former human rights chief at the United Nations calls a ‘textbook case of ethnic cleansing,’ the mostly Muslim minority group have had their rights stripped away entirely, denied citizenship, proper healthcare, and freedom of movement.
The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted communities on the planet, and over half of them are children (730,000 according to UN figures), with a severely limited access to formal education.
Modelled after them, characters Noor and Aziz are a pair of six-year-old twins involved in the innovative $200 million education project that is to provide the Rohingya children currently languishing in camps with some much-needed positivity, laughter, and joy.
‘Rooted in the rich Rohingya culture and informed by extensive research and input from Rohingya families, Noor and Aziz will bring the transformative power of playful learning to families at a time when it’s needed more than ever before,’ says president of Social Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, Sherrie Westin.
Appearing in Rohingya language educational segments that’ll discuss topics such as maths, health, and safety – in addition to vital information about emotional wellbeing – the muppets will feature alongside the show’s most well-known (and beloved) names.
As described by Sesame Workshop, Noor is a passionate, curious girl on a mission to find ways of understanding her world, ‘no problem too big for her to try and solve.’ Her brother Aziz has a boundless creative streak, the likes of which can, at times, distract him from his daily tasks. Though his imaginative mind may wander, however, Noor is able to make him focus.