Shelburne, VT, USA—May 30, 2002—The Population Media Center (PMC) will launch two radio serial dramas in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 1 that address reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. What do a small town in Vermont, USA, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have in common? A passion for the creation of modern serial dramas and a commitment to helping people through those dramas.

Population Media Center is a U.S. based, international, nonprofit, which specializes in research-based media programs for addressing population and HIV/AIDS issues. PMC, and a team of scriptwriters from the national theater and the University of Addis Ababa, have come together to develop this project. By attracting a large audience through the appeal of its characters and the depiction of their lives in engrossing soap operas, the program is designed to harness the power of popular culture and peer influence to improve health and facilitate family planning. Love, intolerance and the struggle of daily life will fuel these soap operas, the first of their kind ever to be broadcast in Ethiopia.

Two dramas, one in Amharic and another in Oromiffa (the two main languages spoken in Ethiopia), have been developed. The Amharic serial drama, entitled Yeken Kignit (“Looking Over One’s Daily Life”), and the Oromiffa one, Dhimbiba (“Getting the Best Out of Life”), will be on the air for a minimum of two years. The soap operas are the fruit of two years of intense collaboration on the part of the Ethiopian creative team and the trainers. Formative research on the issues to be integrated into the drama and perceptions of the target audience has been carried out and will serve as the basis for the drama. PMC trained the team in how to use a technique developed by Miguel Sabido in Mexico, one that has had demonstrable effects in using drama as a vehicle for social change in such countries as Mexico, Kenya, and Tanzania. The dramas were written and produced with the financial support of the Packard and Hughes Memorial foundations, CARE/Ethiopia, and various individual donors.

One of the main objectives of the presentation of the serial dramas is to achieve changes in attitudes and behavior regarding the status of women and reproductive health issues. Past information, education and communication (IEC) endeavors in Ethiopia, especially in the fields of population and HIV/AIDS, have made headway in spreading understanding about population and prevention of HIV/AIDS. But behavior change has not occurred, and behavioral change is the intended result of the PMC radio dramas.

It is estimated that there are over three million HIV/AIDS carriers in Ethiopia and several hundred thousand are reported to have died due to the epidemic. Over half a million orphans in the country have lost their parents as a result of the spread of HIV/AIDS. Statistics also show that over 50% of the hospital beds in urban areas are occupied by HIV/AIDS victims. Changing behavior is of crucial importance in the fight against the deadly disease since there is, as yet, no cure or affordable treatment.

William Ryerson, President of PMC, will address the launching ceremony, which will take place at the Sheba Hall, Ghion Hotel, on June 1, 2002. Teshome Toga, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport; the Minister for Women Affairs; representatives of UNFPA and the Packard Foundation; and the PMC country director, Dr. Negussie Teffera, will also speak at the event.

William Ryerson stated, “When good minds come together, no matter how distantly placed on the globe, good things happen. We anticipate positive changes to come from these collaborative dramas. Reduction in HIV/AIDS, reduction in the population growth rate, and improved status for the women of Ethiopia are just a soap opera away.”

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