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Population Media Center Capacity Building with South-to-South Training

April 14th, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT – When Gabin Kifukiau accepted the job of Country Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a United States nonprofit, he didn’t know that some of his training would come from Burundi and Rwanda. In March of 2014, Kifukiau and his DRC colleague traveled to Burundi, with a stop-over in Rwanda, to see how Burundians and Rwandans were operating country offices of US-based Population Media Center.

Population Media Center (PMC) works around the world to improve the health and well-being of people through storytelling. In order to tell real, authentic, and powerful stories, PMC knows that the writers and rest of the staff have to be from the country where the stories are being told. As PMC’s work has expanded, country offices have become so proficient that PMC has begun using local staffs to provide south-to-south training.

“Such meetings allow mutual enrichment and have many advantages,” says Kifukiau. “The most important is undoubtedly a valuable time saver in the approach used to solve potential operations management problems and implementation of program activities.”

Kifukiau and his team, like the Burundi and Rwandan teams, are working to produce long-running radio serial dramas that engage people and effect behavior change. South-to-south trainings allow the details of best practices to be transferred, supplementing the guidance from headquarters with on-the-ground recent experiences.

“We produce long-running dramas for radio and TV,” says PMC’s President Bill Ryerson, “which require our country teams to handle numerous tasks at once. Plus, they have to work within the framework of their country and establish partnerships for research, broadcast, distribution, and promotion. South-to-south training allows our country teams to help each other anticipate and overcome stumbling blocks.”

DRC is preparing to launch five radio serial dramas later this year, the most PMC has ever launched in one country simultaneously. The dramas will air in Lingala, Swahili, French, Tshiluba, and Kikongo. Kifukiau and his colleague hoped to learn from Burundi’s experience launching the 208-episode radio serial drama “Agashi,” (“Hey! Look Again!”) in January of 2014. The trip also allowed for a short visit in Rwanda, which produced and aired the 312-episode “Umurage Urukwiye” from 2007 to 2009 and is currently preparing for a new program that will launch in May of 2014.

“It’s the local experiences, the local understandings, that make the country offices efficient and effective and that result in real, colorful radio programs that connect with people,” says PMC’s Vice President for International Programs Kriss Barker. “We provide appropriate training and oversight, but they know their country. The south-to-south trainings are fabulous because we get to see the country teams’ excitement to share our framework and methodology with other country teams so that they can effect change within their community and create a real impact.”

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.

Population Media Center Request for Proposals for Website Revamp

April 2nd, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT –Population Media Center (PMC) knows that strategic and audience-specific communications have tremendous impact. This year, PMC has two exciting opportunities. First, PMC will be partnering to produce a worldwide campaign titled Global Population Speak Out in 2015. Second, PMC is poised to tell the story of our work and its impact. With these two goals in mind, PMC is looking to hire a website development vendor.

View Population Media Center & Global Population Speak Out Website RFP.

When selecting a vendor for this project, we will be evaluating candidates on the following criteria:

  • Experience building responsive websites
  • Experience building CMS interfaces that allow for use by non-technical staff
  • Experience building strong online brand experiences
  • Experience creating sites that have strong user interfaces
  • Experience creating sites with varied presentation of content (text, visuals, audio, etc.)
  • Experience organizing content in ways that are intuitive to the site visitor
  • Experience with user testing and testing cross-browser, cross-platform
  • Holistic approach to an organization’s web presence (e.g. insight into integrating social media platforms, campaign tracking mechanisms, web analytics insights, CRM, eCommunications integration, etc.)
  • Ability to convey information and provide cross-training to PMC staff throughout the project and during an official training period

 

Our other considerations will be how well vendors explain their process, approach, and plan. Timeline and cost will also be important considerations.

Bringing People to Life: Radio Dramas Informing Societal Norms

March 17th, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT – When Norbert Regero was awarded a role in a radio serial drama being produced and aired in his home country of Rwanda, he was ecstatic. Not only was it a job, it was a job in theatre – his first professional role doing a job he loved. Regero didn’t yet know that this role would threaten one of his friendships.

Regero was one of the actors chosen to perform in Population Media Center’s (PMC) Umurage Urukwiye (Rwanda’s Brighter Future) that premiered on April 16, 2007 and ran through July of 2009 and is now being rebroadcast throughout Rwanda.

Umurage Urukwiye was broadcast three times per week and addressed issues such as reproductive health, family planning, and HIV/AIDS,” says PMC’s VP of International Programs, Kriss Barker. “It also addressed deforestation and animal habitat preservation, trying to protect habitat for Rwanda’s cherished mountain gorillas while improving local farming.”

Regero played the character of Cyungo – a young man at University on a scholarship who finds himself failing in his classwork and in trouble with sex and drugs. At his low point, Cyungo earns money by bringing young girls to a wealthy man for exploit. Although Cyungo’s story wasn’t an exact match, this character’s story became problematic for one of Regero’s real-life relationships.

“My classmate came to me one day and said ‘Did you tell the writer my story?’” Regero says explaining. “He said he could never be my friend because I played his life story and that was a very serious problem for him. I tried to explain that I never spoke of him. I talked to him about how theatre works, how the story was put together, and that I was an actor, not a writer. But it was more than a year before he spoke to me.”

PMC’s primary work in international development has been to create long-running radio serial dramas, like Umurage Urukwiye, that engage audiences with authentic characters and address relevant social issues. This form of entertainment-education uses the Sabido methodology to create culturally-specific stories with “positive,” “negative,” and “transitional” characters that model behavior. In this case, Regero’s friend saw himself reflected so much in the character that he thought the character was actually modeled on him.

“Many, many young people like the character of Cyungo – how he lives and how he suffers,” says Regero discussing Cyungo and what it was like to play the transitional character who evolved over time. “Cyungo was able to change people’s minds.”

Cyungo was the creation of Alfred Twahirwa, PMC’s head writer for Umurage Urukwiye and another Rwanda national. Twahirwa described the excitement for him and the other PMC-Rwanda staff, hearing their work coming to life over the radio.

“We kept thinking, ‘Wow, we did it.’ And we received so many thanks from people,” Twahirwa says. He also describes the phenomenon of people looking for his help to create behavior change in people they knew. “People would send emails and try to find our personal phone numbers trying to convince us to address more issues. They would say, ‘Can you please also talk about this? I am sure the person I want to reach will follow it. Can you put emphasis on this?”

Clinic monitoring revealed that more than 57 percent of new clients seeking health services had listened to Umurage Urukwiye. Listeners were also 2.7 times more likely to want to know their HIV status, two times more likely to know about medication mothers can take to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS to a baby, and 1.5 times more likely to cite population growth as the primary cause of environmental degradation and loss of gorilla habitat.

Umurage Urukwiye was so popular, and the issues continue to be so important, that its 312 episodes are currently being rebroadcast throughout the entire country on Radio Rwanda. Twahirwa and Regero also find themselves back in a PMC-Rwanda office, as PMC gears up to launch a new radio serial drama addressing new issues in Rwanda later this year.

“If someone like Cyungo changes his life,” says Regero, “then others can learn how to be better. If you teach someone to change to healthy behavior and improve someone’s life, then you can be happy.”

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.

Charity Navigator Gives Population Media Center Highest Rating

March 13th, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT – On February 4, 2014, Charity Navigator announced that for the second consecutive year, Population Media Center (PMC) has been awarded the coveted 4-star rating for sound fiscal management and for commitment to accountability and transparency. As the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, more and more donors have come to rely on Charity Navigator for its unbiased, objective, numbers-based ratings of over 7,000 American charities.

“Only 19 percent of the charities we rate have received at least two consecutive four-star evaluations, indicating that Population Media Center outperforms most other charities in America,” says Ken Berger, President & CEO of Charity Navigator, in his congratulatory letter. “This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Population Media Center from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

Charity Navigator’s rating system is a complex metric based on an organization’s overall financial health, reporting practices, and openness and accountability to stakeholders and the public. Out of a possible 70 points, PMC received a financial rating of 64.44 points, and an overall rating of 65.53, placing the organization in the “exceptional” category.

“PMC is committed to the highest standards of accountability and transparency,” says Paul Ugalde, PMC’s Director of Development. “It is wonderful to be recognized, again, as a 4-star organization by Charity Navigator, one of the most reputable ratings services for the non-profit sector.”

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.

New Population Group Lands in Texas

March 4th, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT. — Everything may be bigger in Texas, but even the Lone Star State has to balance its large and rapidly growing population with limited natural resources – or so says the Texas state chapter of international non-profit organization, Population Media Center (PMC).

“Our Texas Chapter grassroots membership is concerned with population growth in Texas and around the world,” says Bill Ryerson, founder and president of PMC. “The need for our efforts in Texas is great.”

Ryerson will be giving a lecture at Southern Methodist University’s Hughes Trigg Student Center in the Forum room on Thursday, March 6th at 6:30pm and will describe PMC’s international work, which involves improving the health and well-being of people around the world. PMC uses entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models 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.

“Texas is adding population at the fastest rate in the country – growing by about 1,000 people per day,” says Keith Annis, PMC’s Texas chapter executive director, “and this growth is placing stress on already limited state resources, especially water.”

Additionally, Annis notes that Texas received a ‘F’ grade on the Washington DC based Population Institute’s 50-State Report Card for the status of reproductive health and rights in the state, with particularly poor scores in the areas of unintended and teen pregnancy and access to healthcare and sex-education.

“Texas has big problems in the areas of both women’s rights and unsustainable population growth,” notes Annis. “We are working to reverse these situations with the PMC Texas chapter.”

The emphasis of the PMC’s work is to educate people about the benefits of small families, encourage the use of effective family planning methods, elevate women’s status, and promote gender equity.

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.

Hulu Announces Season Two of East Los High for Summer 2014

February 14th, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT – Hulu said it has ordered 12 new episodes of the English-language series “East Los High,” which features an all-Latino cast and explores such real-life issues as teen pregnancy. Last summer, the series consistently ranked among Hulu’s most popular programs.

“The show has this cool, contemporary feel, and feels like East Los Angeles,” Charlotte Koh, head of development for Hulu Originals, said in an interview. “The show will explore new issues this season — domestic abuse, coming out as gay in high school and bullying.”

“East Los High” is a project of Population Media Center, a nonprofit organization that produces dramas addressing health and human rights issues all over the world. It was Population Media Center’s first partnership with Hulu, and it was Hulu’s first and only series with an all Latino cast.

“We are excited for another season on Hulu. We were thrilled with the first season’s large and dedicated audience and the social impact,” says Katie Elmore Mota, Executive Producer.

The episodes were supplemented with video blogs by characters, key character social media profiles, and other transmedia elements where fans could interact with the program and be exposed to additional elements of the story. More than 98 percent of those who watched the episodes and used the transmedia elements said that they found East Los High’s resources incredibly helpful and 76 percent said they shared those resources with friends. In the first month, more than 30,000 people used the Planned Parenthood widgets on eastloshigh.com.

“We’ve had a role in entertainment programming that educates women and men about family planning and other health and social issues in more than 50 countries,” says Bill Ryerson, president of Population Media Center, “but we realized that some sections of LA have such high teenage pregnancy rates that half of the young girls are prevented from finishing high school. We realized we could and should be providing sex education in our own backyard.”

The East Los High team succeeded, with media outlets like Cosmopolitan saying “Escandalo in the best possible way,” and examiner.com saying “Finally, a Latino show we can be proud of.”

To learn more about East Los High season two or to watch season one, visit: www.eastloshigh.com.

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

ABOUT EAST LOS HIGH:

East Los High is Hulu exclusive programming. It is co-created by Carlos Portugal and Kathleen Bedoya, produced by Prajna Productions, The Alchemists, Into Action Films, and Population Media Center. More than 15 leading public health organizations advised on the scripts and content to address teen issues related to relationships and sexuality in a meaningful way. Season one, launched during the summer of 2013, featured 24 episodes. Season two in summer of 2014 will feature another 12 episodes.  www.eastloshigh.com

Haiti Radio Soap Opera Raising Awareness About Child Slaves

February 3rd, 2014

SHELBURNE, VT – When Christina Guérin was a child, she decided she didn’t want a career in radio soap operas. As a young girl, she spent many days and nights in a Haiti radio studio watching her mother work long hours. In September of 2013, Population Media Center launched a new radio soap opera in Haiti addressing child slavery, reproductive health, and family planning. Now, Guérin once again finds herself in the throes of a radio serial drama, but this time she’s the producer.

“It’s something that I enjoy,” Guérin says laughingly. “I had to admit that. Plus, I realized that my mother was doing everything. We have six people doing what she did.”

It was Guérin’s work in a radio station that brought about the existence of “Zoukoutap” (to limp), PMC’s serial drama in Haitian Creole. In her late 20s, Guérin unexpectedly found herself face-to-face with an important issue: child slavery. In Haiti, young children are sent to work in another household when their family is unable to provide for them. This places young children in the role of servant, with no regard for their education, well-being, or happiness. Guérin says that everyone knows restevek children are part of their society, but not enough people are talking about it.

“I was working at a radio station,” she says, “when a young girl was brought in. We were going to announce her name over the radio to find her family, but she didn’t want to. She was a restavek and didn’t want to return to her life. It was a real surprise to me. I knew this existed, but I didn’t know it was so close to my everyday life.”

Guérin helped get that young girl to a shelter, just one of roughly 300,000 children caught up in the restavek system. Guérin realized that she wanted to help address this issue – the question was how.

“I realized that if I want to help, it doesn’t have to be opening a home or protesting – everyone can help in their own way. ‘Zoukoutap’ was the best way I could help.”

But it would be another six years before “Zoukoutap” would come to fruition. Guérin had the idea of creating a radio soap opera that addressed child slavery, and when she reached out to the Restavek Freedom Foundation she received a warm welcome from Executive Director Joan Conn. They even wrote a few episodes, but Guérin says that then they got stuck.

“At a certain point, we didn’t know what to do or what to say,” says Guérin. “This is an important, complicated issue and you have to think about how to present it.”

In 2011, Guérin and Conn met with Bill Ryerson, President of Population Media Center, to discuss the idea. Population Media Center creates radio soap operas for social change all over the world.

“This was an opportunity to address crucial topics in a country where we had never broadcast,” says Ryerson. The project began the following year and “Zoukoutap” hit the airwaves in September of 2013.

“The training and structure provided was so important, as well as all of the research,” says Guérin about working within Population Media Center’s methodology. “In addition to restaveks, we also address reproductive health and family planning, which is part of solving the problem. [Having] too many children is often why people must send some of their children away.”

Guérin has also been blown away by the public support, including the media. “Zoukoutap” is broadcast over two main radio stations in the north and south provinces, plus three radio stations in Port-au-Prince. “Zoukoutap” is also broadcast on Radio Mega in Miami, Florida and is available to listen to online at: www.soundcloud.com/zoukoutapofficiel.

Most importantly, Guérin sees positive responses to the program. She explains that the entire production, writing, and acting team feel invested in the message, with some people agreeing to do interviews and other publicity events about the issues themselves on their own time – evidence of the staff’s commitment and of the impact of the program in starting conversations.

“Some of the scenes can be very difficult to listen to. You can imagine what sounds we have to include when our child actress is in violent situations in order to have that be understood. And we have an incredible child actress, which makes it much more real and much harder to hear. And these things are happening in real life, which is why we need to address these issues.”

So Guérin finds herself back in the world of radio soap operas, but with a different role and a different perspective than from when she was a child. This time, she’s hoping to spend more, not less, time in the studio.

“We need more permanent messages and programs about restavek children and family planning,” she says. “We need more people to discuss these issues and we need society to stop closing their eyes to it. I hope to continue to help.”
Tune-in to Zoukoutap online: www.soundcloud.com/zoukoutapofficiel

Follow Zoukoutap on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Zoukoutap-Paj-Ofisyel/1422754664618219


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.

US Fellowship Opportunity with Innovative Burundi Health Radio Program

January 14th, 2014

Shelburne, VT – January 14, 2014

For the first time, US-based Population Media Center has teamed up with Global Health Corps to offer two year-long paid fellowships in Burundi, one available to a US citizen and one available to a Burundi citizen. This opportunity coincides with the launch of a new radio soap opera produced by Population Media Center’s Burundi office addressing women and children’s health. The organizations are seeking passionate young professionals who are committed to global health and social justice to fill two positions starting in July 2014. The deadline for applying is in January 2014.

“We’ve never done this before,” says Kriss Barker, Population Media Center’s VP of International Programs. “It’s really exciting and different. We are looking for two great fellows, both of whom must be fluent in French since our Burundi office is entirely French-speaking.”

The radio drama, “Agashi” (“Hey! Look Again!”), addresses issues such as child nutrition and family planning through intriguing storylines and plot twists. Over the course of the episodes, characters demonstrate choices and consequences, learning from their actions and teaching listeners as well. “Agashi” will run for approximately two years, airing two episodes per week.

The Global Health Corps fellows will be an integral part of the Burundi office, helping with two large projects: program promotion and program research. Program promotion will include items such as publicity and events to generate awareness and encourage active engagement by the community. Program research will include items such as leading focus groups, analyzing listener responses, and helping inform writers with key information to influence storylines and plot development. Global Health Corps will provide a variety of additional trainings and professional development opportunities, as well as a completion award and life-long access to a network of globally-minded change-makers.

Global Health Corps mission is to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to work for health equity. This commitment to health as a human right aligns perfectly with Population Media Center’s efforts to address population stabilization through four pillars: improving human health, human rights, economic equality, and environmental protection. “This program promises to be an exciting one,” says Barker. “We’re thrilled that our work will get more young people involved in addressing these issues.”

“These positions at PMC will offer fellows an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the improvement of life conditions in Burundi, and to increase their skills and knowledge by working with dedicated managers and mentors at PMC,” says Jean Bosco Ndayishimiye, PMC’s Country Representative. “My dream is that this innovative program in Burundi will generate significant positive results, causing behavior change in Burundian society.”

“We are so excited to partner with Population Media Center on this project,” says Jean Marie Karikurubu, the Burundi Program Manager at Global Health Corps. “Their mission and their communications strategies have been shown to be very effective and we’re excited to offer fellows the opportunity to get involved in this project.”

All applicants must be 30 years or younger, have earned an undergraduate university degree by July 2014, and be proficient in English and French. For more information, visit: http://ghcorps.org/placements/b03-usa-program-coordinator-population-media-center-burundi/

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.

ABOUT GLOBAL HEALTH CORPS (GHC):
Global Health Corps mobilizes a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity. GHC believes young people are the future to solving global health challenges. We place recent college graduates and young professionals from diverse professional backgrounds in health non-profits and government offices in the US, East Africa and Southern Africa for a year of service in order to strengthen and learn from the organizations. Fellows focus on creating solutions for a variety of current health issues like HIV, maternal child health, nutrition, and healthcare access. Through additional training, community building, leadership development and mentorship these young people complete their fellowship with skills to be change-makers and paradigm-shifters in the global health field throughout their careers. Since its founding in 2009, GHC has deployed 322 fellows to work in 7 countries. http://ghcorps.org/

Two New Radio Programs Launch in Nigeria to Entertain and Educate

December 24th, 2013

Shelburne, VT – December 23, 2013

In Nigeria, most people turn to the radio for entertainment. This November, Population Media Center launched two new radio dramas in Nigeria that will air once per week for the next nine months. However, these soap operas bring something in addition to intriguing characters and lots of drama – these soap operas also educate.

“Two radio serial dramas, “Tafigawalo” (Working Towards Change) and “Hannunika Mai Sanda” (Power in Your Hands), are now at the broadcast stage,” says Ephraim Okon, Population Media Center’s country representative in Nigeria. “It has been challenging, but worth while as we hope to improve people’s health and well-being.”

Population Media Center is based in Shelburne, Vermont, but has worked in over 50 countries in its 15 year history. In every country, Population Media Center’s dramas are written, performed, and produced by locals.

“Characters and messages can only be meaningful if they’re defined by the culture,” says Kriss Barker, Population Media Center’s Vice President for International Programs. “That’s why we train and hire staff for each program. Each story has to be uniquely crafted to be effective.”

The new programs in Nigeria will be addressing a number of issues. “Tafigawalo,” which is in Pidgin, addresses family planning, safe motherhood, adolescent reproductive health, girls’ secondary education, and HIV/AIDS. “Hannunika Mai Sanda,” which is in Hausa, addresses early marriage, a health condition caused by early childbearing called obstetric fistula, family planning, reproductive health, and girls’ education. The programs will be broadcast in different regions of the country, aligning with the language and information needs identified by Population Media Center’s formative research.

“We impart information to people by creating believable characters dealing with regular issues,” says Barker. “When Dela pulls her 12-year-old daughter Aisha out of school to be married to a much older man for a dowry, our listeners will follow Aisha as she becomes pregnant before her young body is ready. We don’t need to preach messages because the consequences of different behaviors are clearly demonstrated. People are smart – they make connections for themselves.”

ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center (PMC) 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.

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Entertainment-Education Program Bolsters Ethiopian Public Health Initiative

December 2nd, 2013

Shelburne, VT – An entertainment-education radio serial drama broadcast in Ethiopia has effectively increased awareness of HIV prevention methods and modern sanitation in the country, while also familiarizing citizens with the country’s innovative public health initiative.

The award-winning program, named Mieraf (“New Beginning”), was produced by Population Media Center (PMC), a global leader in entertainment-education. It was broadcast in Ethiopia twice a week from June 2010 through December 2011.

The highly-entertaining and informative drama was designed by PMC’s Ethiopia office to support the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health’s large-scale public health initiative, known as the Health Extension Program (HEP). Launched in 2006, the health extension program employs 30,000 community-based workers, known as Health Extension Workers, to help provide essential health services at the grassroots level.

By 2010, however, authorities had realized the program’s services – which included providing family planning assistance, prevention of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and improving sanitation – were being under-utilized by Ethiopian citizens. In turn, this was causing morale to drop among the Health Extension Workers.

In order to help promote the importance of health extension workers, boost their morale and encourage people to use their services, PMC was retained to produce its flagship product – an entertainment-education behavior-change radio serial drama.

The effective use of entertainment-education in international development work hinges on the realization that emotional as well as cognitive factors influence behaviors. Specifically, social learning theory demonstrates that humans adopt many of their values and learn much of their behavior from role models. By employing local writers, actors and producers to create culturally-specific stories that show the gradual evolution of character role-models in response to real-life problems that audience members are facing, PMC’s serial dramas can facilitate the adoption of new behaviors.

The Mieraf radio serial drama was infused with highly entertaining characters, plot-twists and cliffhangers. It tells the story of Hibist, a 21-year-old-girl living with her family in a rural village in Ethiopia. Two of Hibist’s female siblings die young because of birthing complications, leaving Hibist as the only girl in a family of four living children. With very traditional parents, she struggles to find her place among her three brothers and to overcome the challenges of being female in a male-dominated society. Despite the criticism she endures from all sides, Hibist completes her 10-year education and joins the Health Extension Worker Program, where she is determined to find a way to improve the health of her family and community.

Throughout the course of the drama, Hibist is confronted with numerous challenges – her relationship with her fiancé hangs in a delicate balance; she must survive the temptations of drugs and alcohol; and she must fight against a malaria outbreak in her village by teaching her neighbors to use malaria nets and to drain dirty water from ponds and pools to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

A UNICEF commissioned analysis of the program, completed in 2012, shows that listeners to the program were 3.6 times more likely to know about HIV prevention methods than non-listeners. Listeners were also 1.9 times more likely to know about sanitation measures than non-listeners and had better awareness of the Health Extension Program. Mieraf also won a Global Media Award for best radio serial drama.

“Awareness of the effectiveness of entertainment-education initiatives in promoting health and human rights objectives continues to build in the international development community,” said Bill Ryerson, founder and president of PMC. “In addition to being highly effective as stand-alone interventions, the strong results from Mieraf should further reinforce the notion that behavior change serial dramas can also be leveraged as powerful supplements to both new and existing development initiatives.”

About Population Media Center (PMC):
Population Media Center (PMC) 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.

RELATED RESOURCES

2010/2011 Annual Report

In 2010-2011, PMC had projects in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Caribbean, Ethiopia, Mexico, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the United States, Vietnam and a worldwide electronic game.

2010/2011 Annual Report (PDF, 5.5 MB)

Soap Operas for Social Change to Prevent HIV/AIDS

This training guide is designed to be used by journalists and media personnel to plan and execute the production and broadcast of Sabido-style entertainment-education serial dramas for HIV/AIDS prevention, especially among women and girls.

Using the Media to Achieve Reproductive Health and Gender Equity

In 2005, as a companion piece to the training guide, PMC developed a manual documenting best practices in the application of the Sabido methodology of behavior change via entertainment-education.

Read more about these guides and download »