KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO – After four months of broadcast, a radio soap opera in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is seeing increased listenership and lots of audience engagement. This bodes well for its creators, Population Media Center (PMC), who hope this radio serial drama will change people’s behaviors to lead to healthier and more prosperous lives.
“Children are being killed by diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria,” says William Ryerson, PMC’s President and founder. “We can help improve understanding by opening conversations about child health, reproductive and maternal health, children’s education, and gender equality. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the least developed countries in the world, and we hope to make life better for as many people in the DRC as we can.”
The radio serial drama, Vivra Verra (“Time Will Tell”), launched on a national radio station, Radio Okapi, on September 16, 2014. At the end of November, a random sample telephone survey indicated a listening rate of nine percent. PMC conducts these telephone surveys once per month to gauge listenership and also to obtain specific feedback about storylines and characters that gets immediately shared with the local team of writers.
“We conduct rigorous formative research before starting any drama,” says Kriss Barker, PMC’s Vice President of International Programs. “We also conduct monitoring activities during the broadcast and a comprehensive endline after a drama to assess the drama’s impact. These monthly telephone surveys are a simple, inexpensive way for us to gauge how we’re doing and get feedback to writers in a timely manner so that we can make adjustments quickly and produce the most powerful final product.”
The promotional efforts, and strong writing and production by the Vivra Verra team, seem to be working. By January, listenership had increased to 35 percent.
“We can’t say enough about the importance of promotion,” says Kifukiau Mabanzila Gabin. “Our team members are working hard to direct more people toward this powerful drama with important social and health messages because we know that the more people are listening, the more comprehensive change we can inspire.”
The promotional efforts have been varied, including a press briefing at PMC’s DRC office in Kinshasa that featured the uniqueness of PMC’s approach to drama and the use of mass-media entertainment-education to change behaviors. A week later, in Tsangu, the most populous district of Kinshasa, hundreds of teachers and students attended an informational session moderated by Valentin Mitendo, director of Vivra Verra.
And the team is also working hard to get to the more rural provinces. In Kisantu and Mbanza Ngungu in Bas Congo, informational sessions were presented to standing-room only groups of young and old where many opinion leaders voiced their approval of the positive behaviors promoted in Vivra Verra and the impact it could have on the community.
In Kikwit in Bandundu, an exhibit attracted hundreds of onlookers; in Mbandaka in Equateur province, a motor-caravan promoting Vivra Verra wound through the city streets; in Goma, North Kuvu, a television interview and presentations with women’s associations led to many of the groups making a commitment to further promote the drama; in Kananga, Kasai Occidental, presentations were made in schools and civic organizations; and in Kisangani in Orientale Province and Lubumbashi in Katanga, information sessions and press briefings attracted large crowds.
“In the provinces, the local media have extensively covered the promotional activities and some community radio stations in Bas Congo and Bandundu have begun to broadcast Vivra Verra, expanding the reach and impact,” says Gabin. “These promotional efforts will continue to allow us to reach the greatest number of people with Vivra Verra and that’s good – it’s a soap opera that has the power to improve lives in our country. We’re pleased to bring this drama to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 16 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org
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