NEW DATA: PMC helps change norms in nepal
What if for 91 cents you could help change social norms that prevent child marriage, improve adolescent reproductive health, and reduce violent discipline for children? Population Media Center creates life-changing, popular entertainment for a more equitable and sustainable world, and that was the Population Media Center (PMC) cost and impact in a recent collaboration in Nepal.
An entertaining fictional radio show, Rope Guna Fal (“You Reap What You Sow”), engaged an estimated 325,026 Nepalis every week, costing PMC only $0.91 per loyal listener. Funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Kendeda Fund, and produced in partnership with Antenna Foundation Nepal, the show inspired loyal listeners to tune in every week for a year to hear what happened next in the 104-episode story. As you’ll see, these listeners became local change-makers along the way.
Broadcast Map of Rope Guna Fal nationally across Nepal
“We have observed significant shifts in intention and behaviors on parenting, child marriage, and adolescent reproductive health among regular listeners,” says Rajan Parajuli, PMC’s Country Director in Nepal. “PMC’s multi-issue approach allows for nuanced and varied storylines.”
This was the impact for season two of Rope Guna Fal. Season one of Rope Guna Fal was produced by UNICEF and Antenna Foundation who decided, for season two, to bring in PMC to enhance the impact of this powerful show. PMC helped select writers, trained the production team and writers in PMC’s specific methodology, and facilitated the creation and execution of the storylines. PMC also mentored the writers, providing regular input on the scripts, and conducted the evaluation of the show to understand impact.
Inspiring A New Reality
WHAT ARE THE LOCAL NEEDS IN NEPAL?
Rope Guna Fal addressed social, behavioral, and normative change across three broad objectives: reducing and eliminating child marriage, improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and strengthening parenting skills to improve child well-being.
These themes were carefully selected based on clear local needs. The Nepalese government has implemented various programs and policies aimed at improving all three of these themes, including taking steps to provide sex education in schools, increasing access to family planning services and information, and working to reduce stigma and discrimination.
But these issues are multi-faceted, and the power of cultural norms and traditional practices pose significant barriers to improvement. Population Media Center fully understands that to address deeply personal and entrenched beliefs requires sustained efforts across an ecosystem of partners, including government, health organizations, schools, service providers, and community members, to create a supportive and enabling environment for change.
PMC’s role in the ecosystem is clear. We create award-winning, popular entertainment for TV, radio, or the web that is positively life-changing. By addressing fundamental threats to health and wellness where it matters most—in human hearts and minds—we inspire each listener to understand their power. PMC stories feature relatable characters, familiar communities, and very impactful choices.
Rope Guna Fal: across schools and communities in Nepal
With these choices clearer than ever before, audiences ultimately decide what is best for them. And it’s our audience’s actions and voices that create a cascade of change. From each show that uses PMC’s methodology, a community emerges that is comprised of people who change what is “normal.” These change-makers make it culturally safe to have open conversations and to use the infrastructure of services available.
HOW DOES PMC’S ENTERTAINMENT CREATE A COMMUNITY OF LOCAL CHANGE-MAKERS?
Rope Guna Fal was a 104-episode second season of a fictional radio show broadcast nationally from September 2021-September 2022 with a focus on Karnali, Lumbini, and Sudur Paschim provinces. It was produced by Antenna Foundation Nepal and PMC-Nepal in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Kendeda Fund. In addition to radio and online platforms, the show was also made available for offline listening as part of a voice-based platform (Viamo) for hard-to-reach communities.
“I have been advocating to end child marriage. I tell about the consequences to health, education, and how it would affect their life.”
Rope Guna Fal was successful, in part, because it was extremely entertaining and because it was consumed by large audiences. More than half of the loyal listeners told their friends and family about the show and discussed the issues. With large portions of the audience changing their own beliefs and actions – they became role models for others in their community, like Jodhani.
Jodhani, a loyal listener of Rope Guna Fal, is 40 years old – and a model of change. Jodhani desperately wanted to go to school as a child, but she was denied an education because she was a girl. She married young to a man who had neither education nor wealth, but her dream stayed alive. Jodhani continued to share with her husband her wish to read and write.
Despite the disapproval of her in-laws, she and her husband decided she would gain an education at the same time as their youngest son. She enrolled in school and learned along with him. Some of her grandchildren helped her learn the alphabet. It was attaining a basic level of education that allowed Jodhani to become a community social worker. Already invested in addressing violence, caste discrimination, and child marriage, Rope Guna Fal gave Jodhani the tools she needed to create real change.
“I have been advocating to end child marriage. I tell about the consequences to health, education, and how it would affect their life,” she says. She uses the characters in Rope Guna Fal to motivate people she previously could not engage on the issues. The characters make concepts real without someone having to have that lived experience. She says she sees the community “rethinking.” Raising her voice, Jodhani says, has become easier and now more people are listening – and agreeing to create change.
Inspiring Change Across Audiences
Rope Guna Fal had tremendous impact across numerous issues. Key among them were child marriage, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and parenting decisions.
Change makers who intend to stop child marriage:
- Rope Guna Fal resulted in an estimated 54,000 people intending to stop child marriage in their family and community.
- Listeners were 5.5 times more likely than non-listeners to intend to stop child marriage in their family and community.
- Listeners were 3.8 times more likely to report they’d taken actions to discourage child marriage, building on the success of two previous PMC shows in Nepal, Mai Sari Sunakhari (“Orchid, Like Me”) and Hilkor (“Ripples in the Water”). For these two previous shows, listeners were 2.1 times more likely than non-listeners. This demonstrable change in magnitude of behavior change is meaningful.
Teens talking the talk:
- Rope Guna Fal resulted in an estimated 88,000 people believing adolescents in their community talk about sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. This normalizes the behavior and makes it okay to talk about STIs and STDs.
- Listeners were 3 times more likely than non-listeners to believe adolescents in their community talk about sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV.
Parents’ perceptions change the reality:
- Rope Guna Fal resulted in an estimated 72,000 people believing their community does not find it acceptable to scold or beat children as a form of discipline.
- Listeners were one-third as likely as non-listeners to believe that their community finds it acceptable to scold or beat children as a form of discipline.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND CHANGE HAPPENS IN STAGES?
Change doesn’t happen fast, especially if the change being discussed is one that is deeply personal – like your belief about what is right for your children or talking about your sexual health. That’s why, at PMC, we focus on understanding where an audience is in order to role model different characters and different situations in fictional shows that introduce new ideas, attitudes, and behaviors. We use a Stages of Change model, as seen below.
“So what makes someone change their behavior?” someone might ask. Behavior is ultimately comprised of a person’s knowledge of what’s possible, their attitude about what they would prefer to do or have happen, their perception of what is “normal” and done by others, and their perception of how they’ll be treated based on their behavior –any negative or positive repercussions from their many social groups.
In Rope Guna Fal, UNICEF, Antenna Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, and PMC addressed issues that have been raised within the communities by many organizations for quite some time. The PMC-Nepal office began in 2016, with funding support from The Kendeda Fund, dedicated to addressing child marriage, the social status of women and girls, and improving reproductive health and rights. When an audience already has awareness and knowledge, shows like Rope Guna Fal can focus on attitudes, norms, and behaviors.
Rope Guna Fal was able to help the audience prepare for action and take action. This is particularly exciting because this is where all the pre-existing work allows the change to become a reality – it’s where people claim their agency and become local, regional, and national change makers.
This is the strength of running multiple PMC shows on seemingly impossible-to-change social norms. The shows build on each other, bringing audiences on journeys that allow them to experience different storylines, decisions, and consequences vicariously.
CAN WE GET TO A MORE EQUITABLE, FLOURISHING WORLD FOR ALL?
We can get to a more equitable and flourishing world for all. PMC-Nepal used the power of storytelling to challenge child marriage norms, improve sexual and reproductive health for adolescents, and strengthen parenting skills. Rope Guna Fal created and amplified the power of positive change, building on existing momentum to transform people’s lives.
Rope Guna Fal engaged an estimated 325,026 Nepalis. The compelling story cost PMC only $0.91 per loyal listener who tuned in every week for one year to hear what happened next. But, more importantly, the audience then made informed decisions about what happened next in their communities.
This most recent project in Nepal proves that we can change hearts and minds if we engage people on the most human level – by telling transformative stories. Each of us is a story, and we should always remember that our story impacts the lives and stories of everyone around us. Give people options. Rope Guna Fal shows the power of people to rewrite their own stories.