KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO–A new radio show airing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo doesn’t promise to solve every challenge, but it is promising top-notch entertainment that will spur conversation and change.
Radio Okapi, a nationwide radio station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, starts broadcasting Vivra Verra (“Time Will Tell”) on September 16, 2014. Vivra Verra, written and produced in French, promises action and suspense, but the writers and producers know Vivra Verra’s casts of characters and plot twists will also get the audience talking about important issues, such as maternal and child health, gender-based violence, and adolescent reproductive health.
“Long-running dramas are a powerful vehicle to introduce audiences to important social concepts,” says Bill Ryerson, President of Population Media Center, which is producing the program. “We’ve been telling stories for social development for over 15 years, and we’re very excited to work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring our method of entertainment-education to the airwaves.”
Population Media Center (PMC), an international nonprofit based in the United States, specializes in entertainment-education, producing what much of the world would describe as “soap operas” for TV, radio, and the web, but these soap operas effect changes in health and social attitudes and behaviors.
“We’re excited about Vivra Verra,” says Kriss Barker, PMC’s Vice President of International Programs. “Our method for producing these dramas – we use the Sabido Methodology – has been tested through a variety of environments, cultures, and issues. We’re eager to bring our expertise to bear on these important issues facing the Congo.”
As of 2013, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranked as second to last of all countries on the Human Development index. The Democratic Republic of the Congo also has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, and PMC explains that these two facts are directly connected. PMC works to address human health and human rights issues, which are key factors in lowering fertility.
“When people are empowered with information and choice,” says Ryerson, “the fertility rate drops while health, human rights, and economies advance. In fact, every country that has been reclassified from developing status to developed status since World War II first started with fertility reduction by promoting family planning and small family norms.”
“Radio Okapi welcomes the broadcast of serial dramas as they reconcile the two basic elements of radio: information and entertainment,” says Denis Faoud, Head of Media at the Hirondelle Foundation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which oversees Radio Okapi. “Such programs are a good complement to our range of program information, such as news programs and cultural programs. This allows us to talk about serious things without necessarily doing so in a serious way.”
PMC also hopes to launch up to four more dramas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to address similar and additional issues in local languages of Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba.
“The writers and producers of our programs are always local, and the Vivra Verra staff is superb,” says Barker. “The local PMC staff looks forward to the Vivra Verra characters coming alive in the minds and conversations of people throughout the Congo and seeing real dialogue around important issues.”
This project is funded by DFATD (Canada), the US Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNICEF, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), DKT International, UN Women, and UNAIDS.
ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 15 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org