Three staff members of PMC-Haiti huddle together wearing Zoukoutap t-shirts at the launch party
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Change Comes in Stages: Haiti Results Show PMC’s Approach Succeeds on Toughest Issue

Mar 17, 2021

Powerful change takes time. Social justice requires shifting numerous aspects within our communities and within our individual perspectives. Population Media Center, a nonprofit leader in entertainment for social good, started work in Haiti in 2013 addressing many issues, including a deeply embedded system of child slavery. More than seven years later, PMC continues to catalyze significant social change while growing a loyal audience for its Zoukoutap (“To Limp”) series.

When the original Zoukoutap aired in 2013, the radio show amassed a loyal listener base of an estimated 100,000 weekly listeners. However, moving the needle on deeply rooted social issues takes time and is a more complex challenge than building a fan base. That is why a long-term commitment to an audience is crucial – and why PMC has continued in Haiti with three Zoukoutap shows.

What is Child Slavery in Haiti?

Like all PMC entertainment, the Zoukoutap series combines several health and social issues into storylines. One of the most prominent issues in Zoukoutap is Haiti’s restavek system, which impacts approximately 300,000 children. Parents unable to support their children give their kid(s) to another family. The receiving family is supposed to provide the children with food, shelter, and access to education. Unfortunately, many children never get an education or barely get food and shelter. These children are completely at the mercy of their new “families,” and often face verbal and physical abuse, are required to perform unrelenting manual labor, and have no source of love and support.

“Some of the scenes can be very difficult to listen to,” says Christina Guérin, Zoukoutap’s producer. “You can imagine what sounds we have to include when our child actress is in violent situations in order to have that be understood.”

People’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors change over time

Systemic injustice and dehumanization do not get swept away quickly. In the first Zoukoutap, listeners called in with love or outrage on all storylines – except the stories that addressed the restavek system. The lack of response to the restavek issue indicated that the audience was in what PMC calls pre-contemplation or contemplation – meaning that it was not something people yet wanted to face. The topic was taboo.

Diagram of PMC's Stages of Change. The stages in order are Awareness, Knowledge, Attitudes, Perceptions of Norms, and Behavior

Stages of Change model PMC uses when designing entertainment that moves the audience.

Now in its third series and seven years later, Zoukoutap 3’s audience no longer views restavek as taboo. The audience has moved through what PMC calls “stages of change” toward the ultimate goals – actual behavioral change and shifting social norms. Zoukoutap 3 is positively influencing norms around child protection, creating a community where social pressure is exerted to stop the restavek system and peer pressure exists to look out for abuse and protect children already in the system.

Other deeply entrenched societal issues in Zoukoutap 3 include family planning and gender-based violence. PMC also responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with add-on safety messages within the context of the existing show.

It is important to note that multivariate logistic regression is applied to PMC’s endline analysis to control for influencing demographic factors. PMC’s research methodology assures the Zoukoutap‘s impact is directly attributable to the show’s creative storylines, and not to other external factors such as differences in education, gender, age, and other demographics.

Zoukoutap 3 Impacts Child Slavery

Results from new endline data compare loyal Zoukoutap 3 listener (individuals who listened to the radio show at least once weekly) responses to counterpart non-listeners (Haitians who never listened to the show) on critical indicators regarding attitudes, norms, and behaviors. These results inform PMC on where the audience stands on issues and supplies guidance for project designs, making sure each show achieves its intended results. In Haiti, PMC has moved beyond all awareness and knowledge stages. Zoukoutap 3 was designed to address attitudes, norms, and even behavior. In the results, the behavior indicators are less strong (though still statistically significant) because the audience is not as comfortable acting on these issues yet.

Restavek Results (Child Slavery in Haiti)

Rights of Women and Girls Results

In addition to the child protection storylines in Zoukoutap 3, producers incorporated family planning and gender-based violence as essential social norms to address in the series. PMC is dedicated to enhancing women and girls’ well-being and status around the world.

COVID-19 Prevention Result

Behavior Change Theory and Entertainment Works

Loyal listenership has grown since Zoukoutap began broadcasting in 2013 with listenership increasing from 98,897 in 2014 to more than half a million Haitians (559,680) listening weekly to Zoukoutap 3. The cost-effectiveness of the Zoukoutap series improved alongside the show’s increased popularity. Audience engagement of the first Zoukoutap resulted in a cost per loyal listener of USD 4.50 – the cost per Zoukoutap 3 loyal listener was just USD 1.00. With proper program design and audience research, each PMC show holds the promise of better cost effectiveness and moving audiences closer toward the desired behavior change – even on deeply embedded, taboo topics.

“These results are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our PMC-Haiti team and folks who worked on our previous seasons to engage audiences over the years,” says Program Manager Lindsay Wenkouni Reid.

Zoukoutap 3 aired from November 2018 to July 2020 in Haitian Creole, a language spoken by over 90% of Haitians. The 156-episode show was funded in part by Restavek Freedom Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending child slavery in Haiti, in addition to funding from Save the Children, the Bergstrom Foundation, and an anonymous donor.