The future is in her hands


This page in:

She is described as having strong ideas. A spirited and energetic girl who dreams of a big future, Shams helps children and encourages them to learn and play.

But Shams is not a real child. She is a Muppet and one of the most popular fictional characters in the children’s show Iftah Ya Simisim, the Arabic version of the popular, long-running US children’s show Sesame Street, which was introduced in the Arab world in the 1980s.

I learned about Shams when I played a recent episode for my son on YouTube. My wife and I make sure he watches the show every time a new episode is uploaded. It is educational, informative, and keeps up with our Arab culture and traditions.

In a recent episode, titled “I Can Be Anything,” the show addresses an important topic for building strong, resilient societies—empowering girls so they can be what they wish in the future.

The scene starts when Shams asks the librarian, Amal, why she is arranging books in the library. Amal explains to Shams that it’s her job to do so, and that when Shams grows up she will also work and can be whatever she wishes to be. Shams’s imagination then wanders to becoming an engineer, a sailing captain, and an astronaut.

The importance in this episode goes beyond learning Arabic, science, or mathematics. It is an important lesson in empowering and educating young girls and integrating them into society to grow up and work side by side with men.

It is a lesson in gender equality. Even better, it is a lesson to boys on the importance of accepting and respecting girls as peers with whom they should study and work as equals.

This is also what we strive to do. The World Bank Group takes as its starting point that no country, community, or economy can achieve its potential or meet the challenges of the 21st century without the full and equal participation of women and men, girls and boys.

Failure to fully unleash women’s productive potential represents a major missed opportunity with significant consequences for individuals, families, and economies. The Bank Group works with public- and private-sector clients to close gaps between males and females globally for lasting impact in tackling poverty and driving sustainable economic growth that benefits all.

Investing in equality for women and girls is essential to achieving the goals of the organization to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. This is the vision behind the World Bank Group’s new Gender Equality Strategy. It charts a course towards better opportunities for women and girls and a level playing field for all.

Iftah Ya Simsim taught us great lessons I absorbed as a child in Iraq in the 1980s.

Its current topics—in various translations and productions the world over—still provide vital lessons, educating generations to come.

As the Arabic proverb says, “Teaching in early childhood is like carving in stone.” What better lesson to leave with young children than the message that they all deserve the chance to achieve their potential—and whole families and economies benefit as a result.


Join the Conversation

عبدالله رافعه
January 10, 2016

فخور فخور فخور في شخصيات إفتح ياسمسم, و شمس أشرقت علينا في النسخه الجديده لتنير طريق المستقبل للجيل الجديد
بالتوفيق للجميع, أشكرك على كتابة هذه المقاله, حركت مشاعري و جعلتني أشعر حقاً بالفخر كوني عربي وجزء من هذا التغيير الإيجابي القادم والرؤيه الواضحه للمستقبل

Bassam Sebti
May 14, 2019

نحن جميعا فخورين بكم. جهودكم عظيمة وسترسخ بعقول أجيال كاملة كما رسخت جهود الذين سبقوكم في عقولنا. عودة مباركة وانجاز عظيم يا "راشد"! أتمنى أن يستمر البرنامج لفصول كثيرة بوجود فنانين موهوبين أمثالك. تحياتنا وعاشت أيدك. 

Myriam Castrillon
January 16, 2016

Excelente comentario, aporte y programa
podemos obtener el video en español para presentarlo en mi pais Colombia?

Franklin Diaz
January 20, 2016

Desde Flacso R.D, buscamos impulsar un espacio que esta diseñado:Cafe Joven..

January 23, 2016

When i was young i had watched "iftah ya simsim"i admired a lot because it wasn't just an entertaining tv series it was an educational one ,it teached children alphabets, language,science,numbers,moral the past man lived inside a little and closed society with a group of persons sharing the same civilisation,culture,traditions and the same in these few last years life has changed a lot specially with a big technological progress(internet,mobile,skype...)the internet allowed the world to do a jump of progress in different domains specially in telecommunication and science ,but man find himself living inside a bigger universal society he discoveres,by tv and languages,new civilisations,traditions,religions,and new life conceptions.With a free access to internet and without the control of their parents ,children ,teenagers and young people find themselves confused and lost inside a bigger society full of diversities and problems;injustice,poverty,unemployment,extrimism,terrorism...and with a free access to internet children and teenagers can learn good and bad things and they can be easily influenced by bad persons and groups.That's why i think that to protect new generations it is very important to broadcast on tv educational programs and series that can teach young people not only scientific programs but also moral rules ,to remind them human values,teach them the importance of love as a human value, love that can make our life meaningfull,love of the family,home land,work ,nature,love of the others (brotherhood),invite them to love,respect and help old,ill,poor peoples...teach young people the importance of education,culture,of work that give them the chance to participate in the economic and social progress of their families and countries ,teach men and boys to love and respect women ,to give them their rights , give them the chance to participate in the developpement of their countries because without women societies will sure live with a partiel paralysis.To finish i think that for the under developped countries it isn't enough to guet loans and subventions from the world bank and internationals organisations,the most important thing for their progress is to invist (in their populations) ,just assure for them dignity,food,health and education and invite them to work they will sure progress ,but we must insist that education is the key of progress and this important and urgent mission must be assured and shared between the government,the family,the educational corpse and the mass media ( radio ,tv..)the government must play the most important role because she must assure free education for all BOYS AND GIRLS .thank you