Finally, Uncle John can justify his daily viewings of Sesame Street.
Since its 1969 inception, Sesame Street has been carefully written and planned by a team of educators with the goal of gently explaining many different aspects of life to preschool age children. That goes the same for the many international versions of the program, which feature characters or Muppets unique to or reflective of life in those areas. HIV rates are high in South Africa, for example, and that country’s Takalani Sesame features an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.
One of the biggest public health problems in the world today is that an estimated 2.5 billion people – nearly half of the world’s population – does not have access to clean water, good sanitation, or safe toilets. Until widespread improvements can be made, educating people, especially children, on how to use latrines properly, can be an effective way to prevent the spread of water- or fecal-born parasites and infections.
Sesame Workshop India, who produces a local version of Sesame Street has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Cleaner, Healthier, Happier” campaign to educate children on how to use latrines and toilets in a healthy and effective way. The method: a new Muppet on Sesame Street. Introducing Raya, a six-year-old, aqua-colored Muppet who encourages kids to always wash their hands after using a toilet, and to always wear shoes when visiting a public latrine.
And as if Uncle John didn’t already think this was all fantastic, Raya likes to remember and recite interesting facts and bits of trivia.
Raya will appear in a series of public health DVDs, print materials, and public service announcements that will be distributed throughout India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria.