Radio Sex-ed Program to Save Lives, Ethiopian Government commits $100,000 towards AIDS prevention

October 14, 2002 • Family Planning, Ethiopia, News

Shelburne, VT– A novel sex-ed program is broadcasting on Ethiopia’s airwaves. Population Media Center (PMC), which uses serial radio dramas to promote healthy and safe sexual practices, is receiving a $100,000 grant from the Ethiopian Government’s HIV/AIDS Council to boost sex education.

PMC’s radio dramas emphasize the benefits of improved health and education for women, promote birth control and use of condoms as a preventative measure against HIV/AIDS. In the four years of its work, results have shown the use of radio dramas to be a highly effective method for reaching a wide audience and building their belief in the importance of maintaining safe sex practices.

Millions in Africa face certain death from AIDS, yet Ethiopia’s high birthrate will double the population by 2025. Working in partnership with local writers and producers, PMC experts guide creative teams in developing and writing programs that are relevant and effective. This strategy has already shown results in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

The new funding will enable PMC to produce an additional year’s worth of radio serial dramas.
Following the methodology developed by Miguel Sabido of Mexico, which combines entertainment with education, such serialized dramas have already achieved enormous popularity in India, Mexico and China, as well as in other African countries. The commitment by the Government of Ethiopia is a heartening acknowledgement of the proven effectiveness of PMC’s educational strategy. Results documented in populations where condom use was almost unknown, and where ritual and superstition often guide sexual behavior, are dramatic: a 150% increase in use of condoms in a monitored area in Tanzania, for example, along with a huge drop in the birthrate. The radio dramas quickly become an accepted source of reliable information for the audiences, and listeners develop an attachment to the characters, as they begin to identify with them. Through these examples, and through the stories that show favorite characters dying of AIDS because of unsafe sexual practices, changes in beliefs and behavior gradually occur. The radio drama is a well-established and trusted medium, and audiences and governments view it as a non-threatening, non-controversial method of education.

In addition to promoting condom use, the dramas portray women fighting for their right to health care and education, and audiences can observe and emulate the positive changes that occur in the villages when these fictional women achieve their goals. The dramas also tackle issues such as marriage by abduction, education of daughters and spousal communication. Since two new radio dramas were launched in Ethiopia in June, more than 100 letters a day have been received by PMC’s Ethiopia office, indicating the deep level of involvement by the audience in the lives of key characters in the dramas.

Founded in 1998 by William Ryerson, Population Media Center is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works worldwide with broadcast and print media to motivate people to use family planning and effective measures to prevent AIDS and to respect equal rights for women. PMC works worldwide from its headquarters in Shelburne, Vermont. It has representatives in Mexico City, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia); Nairobi (Kenya); Rio de Janeiro (Brazil); Washington DC; and Portland, Oregon.

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