Learning From Soap Operas

June 30, 2010 • Ethiopia, PMC in the News

This New York Times OpEd covered PMC-Ethiopia’s soap operas, Yeken Kignit and Dhimbibba.

A friend of mine, a physician who works the longest hours of anybody I know, makes only one exception from her demanding schedule in New York. Once a week, she returns home early to watch a new episode of her favorite soap opera.

I cannot think of a more unlikely fan. It goes to show that soap operas appeal across a broad spectrum, from the most intellectually sophisticated to people with little or no formal education.

So it should come as no surprise that soap operas, or telenovelas, are increasingly being used throughout the world to disseminate messages about health issues such as the need for contraception, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, how to achieve peace between countries in conflict and how to elevate the status of women in developing countries. By identifying themselves with the protagonists’ dreams and problems the viewer establishes an immediate connection with them.

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