On the Airwaves and in the Homes of Zambians: The Impact of Kwishilya and Sinalamba

February 15, 2021 • News

Woman standing on stage holding a microphone and paper at her side. A crowd gathering behind her in the background.Woman standing on stage holding a microphone and paper at her side. A crowd gathering behind her in the background.

In 2020, two popular Zambian radio shows ended – storylines were wrapped up and characters made their final appearances to fans. Kwishilya (“Over the Horizon”) and  Siñalamba (“Breaking the Barrier”) were produced by Population Media Center (PMC), a nonprofit leader in entertainment for social good. These were the first PMC-produced shows to broadcast in Zambia. Despite no previous connection with the audience or established brand equity, an astounding 53% of Zambians aged 15-59 heard about the shows and 37% of Zambians aged 15-59 were regular, weekly listeners. In addition to broad listenership, several key indicators were met, proving PMC’s Theory of Change can produce results, even in first-time country broadcasts.

PMC started working in Zambia in 2018 as part of The Community Radio Program to Improve the Health of Women and Children. The three-year project included the production of two new unique radio shows and accompanying mass media campaigns. Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the broadcasts encouraged behavior change around crucial health and social issues in five Zambian provinces. Kwishilya was broadcast in Muchinga, Luapula, Northern and Central Provinces and Siñalamba was broadcast in Western Province.

Using PMC’s unique Theory of Change, PMC-Zambia developed 312 episodes (156 episodes per radio show) and broadcast the long-running stories on strategically selected community and commercial radio stations across the five providences. The primary target audiences for the show were women and adolescents ages 15 to 49 years old. The secondary audience were men ages 15 to 59 years old.

Both Kwishilya and Sinalamba included storylines and characters navigating four main thematic areas:

  • Family Planning, tied to reproductive and maternal health
  • Nutrition, tied to newborn, and early childhood development
  • Gender-Based Violence, including ending child marriage
  • HIV, with a focus on adolescents

In addition to the four main areas of focus, writers incorporated characters and plots around the following minor themes and two cross-cutting social issues.

Three minor thematic areas:

  • Malaria prevention and treatment
  • Education, focused on keeping girls in school
  • Civic Engagement

And two cross-cutting issues:

  • Gender Equality
  • Maternal Health

The Kwishilya character Chomba Bweupe Chaibela Jr. was a focal point of the family planning thematic storyline. During the show, the character received pressure from his father to have more children by abandoning family planning methods. As he struggled to choose between more children to please his father or continued use of contraceptives, audiences were introduced to other characters trying to influence Chomba’s decision. The negative and positive characters of each PMC show exemplify different views and attitudes audiences may have on each issue, encouraging analysis of all perspectives and showing the audience ways to navigate discussions and social pressure.

Read more Kwishilya storylines >

Impact Results

PMC established goals, objectives, and indicators for the radio shows, which were strategically connected to the thematic areas and written into the plotlines. To monitor and evaluate these indicators and to ascertain if the project objectives were attained, an outcome cross-sectional survey representative of the population of the five target provinces was conducted by local research firm BrandComm through mobile phones.

In addition to key programmatic indicators, the survey collected information on demographic factors and assessed different levels of exposure. Changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors on key program indicators as a result of exposure to the broadcasts were evaluated by comparing regular listeners to non-listeners. Multivariate logistic regression was used to control for influencing demographic factors that included sex, age, marital status, number of children, education, residence, region, and religion.

The use of mobile devices and an electronic questionnaire allowed for data validation rules and consistency checks integrated into the scripted questionnaire. The device and the software had online and off-line capabilities in areas where there is no connectivity, like rural Zambian providences.

The following endline impact analysis is based on combined data from the evaluation of the two dramas, Kwishilya and Sinalamba. Separate impact data for each show will be released later in 2021.

  • Cost effectiveness is important to PMC, and the cost for these two shows in Zambia was approximately $3.25 USD to reach loyal listeners once or more per week for 1.5 years.
  • More than half (53%) of Zambians aged 15-59 in the broadcast provinces (Central, Luapula, Muchinga, Northern, and Western) “heard of” Kwishilya or Siñalamba. This data amounts to an estimated one million (1,012,009) Zambians.
  • More than two in five (44%) Zambians aged 15-59 in the broadcast provinces listened to “one or more episodes” of Kwishilya or Siñalamba. This amounts to an estimated 842,068 Zambians.
  • Nearly two in five (37%) Zambians aged 15-59 listened “weekly” to Kwishilya or Siñalamba. This amounts to an estimated 710,315 Zambians.
  • Regular listeners of Kwishilya and Siñalamba were 1.3 times more likely than non-listeners to discuss using prenatal services with their spouse in the last six months.
  • Regular listeners of Kwishilya and Siñalamba were 1.6 times more likely than non-listeners to approve of a couple using a family planning method to delay or avoid pregnancy.
  • Regular listeners of Kwishilya and Siñalamba were 1.6 times more likely than non-listeners to be currently using a family planning method to delay or avoid pregnancy.
  • Regular listeners of Kwishilya and Siñalamba were 1.4 times more likely than non-listeners to know one of the benefits of exclusively feeding infants younger than six months old breastmilk.
  • Regular listeners of Kwishilya and Siñalamba were 1.2 times more likely than non-listeners to have taken action to advocate for girls’ education.

Stories from the Audience: Living Better Together

In 2020, Alice and Geoffrey Mwaba shared with PMC that Kwishilya improved their marriage.

Alice was the first in the Mwaba family to hear about Kwishilya and was hooked from the start. She became an avid listener to the show, and she encouraged her husband to listen with her.

When asked how the radio show has influenced them, Geoffrey said, “the program contained so much educational information that has helped us live better together as a couple and as parents. The fighting has stopped, and our relationship is being nurtured in a more loving environment.”

Thanks to Kwishilya, the couple has learned how to communicate positively with each other when challenges arise. Quarrels are settled when they have privacy away from their children, and Geoffrey and Alice discuss matters calmly – no longer escalating to yelling or physical confrontations.

Read more about Alice and Geoffrey >

Extended Broadcasts

PMC’s first shows in Zambia demonstrate that popular media developed by local writers, actors, and producers can influence communities and drive individuals to change behaviors. From acceptance of family planning methodology to an increase in understanding maternal and newborn health, Kwishilya and Siñalamba impacted Zambians and their attitudes on critical issues outlined in The Community Radio Program to Improve the Health of Women and Children goals.

PMC-Zambia is excited to announce a cost extension from USAID to develop, produce, and broadcast sequels to Kwishilya and Siñalamba. The extension provides funding to maintain a presence across the current geographic providences and expand the Community Radio Drama to address similar social issues with its already existing audience

The development for the two radio shows is scheduled to start immediately, with broadcasts scheduled to continue through December 2022.


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