On April 1st, 2012, Population Media Center Sierra Leone premiered a 208-episode radio serial drama, Saliwansai. Weaving together the lives of the main characters, Abu, Gibo, Hingah and Wara, the writers of Saliwansai have created an intricate storyline, with suspenseful plot twists that have captivated audiences across the country. The program addresses such issues as preventing or repairing obstetric fistula, ending female genital mutilation, stopping gender based violence, and preventing HIV infection.
Saliwansai, meaning “puppet on a string”, represents the tough decisions the characters are faced with on a daily basis. Like puppets, the characters are influenced by the conflicting messages they receive, from family, friends and society, which often pull them in different directions. Each character faces their own personal journey, with challenges revolving around health, education, relationships, and family.
In preparation for Saliwansai, PMC opened a brand new studio in Freetown, equipped with state of the art recording technology. PMC staff provided training for local production staff and additionally, PMC teamed up with Hollywood actress Alexandra Paul to hold workshops for the cast of Saliwansai. The group worked on cultivating acting technique and learning to play a convincing role, delving into their character’s motivation, intention, and identity. PMC recognizes the value of strong character development and excellent casting in producing a successful drama, and spends several weeks at the beginning of each project building the skills of local actors.
Saliwansai will address these 5 issues:
1. Reproductive health and family planning
2. Adolescent reproductive health and unplanned pregnancies
3. Gender-based violence
5. Obstetric fistula, pregnancy related-complications, and the importance of antenatal care
Through positive messaging and role modeling, Saliwansai aims to encourage new social norms and provide correct information regarding the relative safety of contraception compared to early and repeated childbearing. With audiences already praising Saliwansai, PMC hopes that the program will be successful in stimulating discussion on these important social issues. Funding for Saliwansai was made possible by the United Nations Population Fund.
PMC Sierra Leone is also producing a nationally broadcast program, Kombra Bot, in association with Marie Stopes Sierra Leone. Kombra Boat is a 36-episode radio drama and is produced in Krio. Kapala Nafie, another program produced by PMC-SL, is a 10-episode program for WHH that is broadcast in the region around Bo. It is produced and broadcast in Mende.
Sierra Leone is a country of approximately 6 million people with a population doubling time of 32 years. The total fertility rate of 5 children per woman is among the highest in the world. This high fertility rate is compounded by low use and knowledge of modern contraceptive methods by men and women throughout the country. The fertility rate is, in part, a reflection of the ideal number of children among married women (5.3) and among married men (6.8).
Only 7% of married women (15-49 years of age) in Sierra Leone use a modern method of contraception. Among non-users of modern contraception, the reasons given for non-use are partner opposition (14.4%), fear of side effects or health concerns (14.2%), personal opposition (13.5%), lack of knowledge of methods or sources (12%), wanting as many children as possible (10.8%), and religious opposition (9.3%). Cost was cited by only 1.3%, and lack of access was cited by only 0.3%. There is a critical need to change social norms with regard to ideal family size, acceptability of family planning, and self-efficacy with regard to decision-making about family matters, and to provide correct information regarding the relative safety of contraception compared to early and repeated childbearing. PMC hopes that its program will have a major impact in on these norms.