Local Radio Stations in Africa Use Entertainment to Prevent HIV/AIDS

March 20, 2003 • Family Planning, Gender Equality, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Serial Dramas, Radio Serial Dramas, News

Johannesburg, South Africa – People don’t change behavior when they’re told how to act. Rather, people are likely to listen when they are presented with accurate information that depicts a situation they can relate to and touches their heart. Life-like radio dramas are one way to effectively reach people and influence positive behavior change, discovered workshop participants from radio stations and health organizations from 8 African countries last week.

Radio can influence behavior when programs include social content. Entertainment-education, radio programming and HIV/AIDS prevention were the main topics discussed during a UNFPA training workshop organized by the Culture, Gender and Human Rights branch. Last week, UNFPA, The United Nations Population Fund, in collaboration with Population Media Center, launched a weeklong training workshop for local FM radio stations and non-governmental, reproductive health service organizations from Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, South Africa, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Namibia.

The workshop on entertainment-education strategies and HIV/AIDS is part of the project Strengthened Partnerships among Local FM and Community Radio Networks and Reproductive Health Agencies on HIV/AIDS. Participants were selected based on on-going collaboration with the UNFPA country programmes, and a needs assessment questionnaire that was distributed to radio stations and NGOs in 12 sub-Saharan African countries with high rates of HIV infection. A similar pilot workshop will be held in Asia in May.

Communication strategies such as the Sabido methodology for behavior change, radio drama script writing, social merchandizing and audience research and monitoring as well as issues related to gender sensitivity, HIV/AIDS research, and discrimination, were also discussed.

Also present at the workshop were representatives from UNAIDS, One World Radio, Free Play Radio, South Africa’s Department of Communications, Love Life, Soul City, the Reproductive Health Research Unit, the HIV Paranatal Unit, ABC Ulwazi, and AMARC, all of whom shared information through presentations and lively debates. As a result of these exchanges, participants expanded their knowledge and their networks.

The aim of the project is to develop effective, compelling and culturally relevant communications on HIV/AIDS by strengthening partnerships among local FM radio networks and health and education, youth and women community-based organizations. The project is funded through UNAIDS and UNFPA. Co-implementing agencies are UNFPA and Population Media Center.

Population Media Center, Inc. (PMC) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works worldwide with the broadcast media to motivate people to achieve small family norms through family planning; to take effective measures to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS; and to respect equal rights for women. PMC is based in the United States.
UNFPA extends assistance to developing countries, countries with economies in transition and other countries at their request to help them address reproductive health and population issues and raises awareness of these issues in all countries, as it has since its inception.
PMC provides the technical assistance for the curriculum, inventory, needs assessment and training of radio stations for the project. UNFPA Culture, Gender and Human Rights Branch developed the project concept and proposal; it also coordinates inputs from UNFPA Country Offices in identification of countries, radio stations, health agencies and personnel.

By the end of the week, participants had committed plans to enhance their own radio programmes and the need for entertaining, accurate and culturally relevant programming to address HIV/AIDS.

One South African participant said, “Recognize you always need to learn from others. The media has power. So recognize and accept it. Recognize that people like to see themselves reflected back at them. They want characters to relate to.” She added, “In order to change a society, you need to change its ideas about itself. You need to target preconceived notions and stereotypes about gender, class and race. You need to reflect that community back to itself, so that they can see not so much their problems but rather the things that need to be rectified in their society.”

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