US pulls plug on cash for Pakistani Sesame Street
IT was launched with much fanfare last year and made a star of a local schoolgirl, but the US announced on Monday it was pulling funding for the Pakistani version of Sesame Street amid allegations the money was not used appropriately.
America's foreign aid agency, USAID, said last year that it was giving money to a street theatre group in Lahore to produce a local franchise of the show to help promote education as well as spreading infor-mation on health awareness and even women's rights.
Sim Sim Hamara (which translates as "Our Street") retained some of the programme's original characters, such as Elmo, but a young Pakistani schoolgirl called Rani was made the star. It cost around €15m to produce.
The money was awarded to the Rafi Peer theatre group but sources say staff at the company were recently informed that the US would stop funding the project in September.
A spokeswoman for the US consulate in Lahore confirmed funding will end in four months. The spokeswoman said the decision to end the funding had been made with the consent of the theatre company and that the project would continue, albeit without the support of the US government.
On Monday, Faizan Peerzada, of the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, dismissed allegations in the Pakistani media that funds were being used to pay personal debts as "fabricated".
In a statement he said the workshop was now looking for alternative funding.
"The company intends to continue to develop Sim Sim Hamara under its banner," he said.