People pose for a photo during an event for launch of the Pambazuko radio show
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Dawn Arrives in the East: A Drama Designed to Change Eastern Congo

Mar 03, 2016

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO–On February 24, 2016, radios in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo played the opening episode of Pambazuko (“The Dawn”). Listeners began to learn about Jaribu’s post-war poverty, Sheriya’s jealous husband, and Mawazo’s love of school. These stories and others will be woven through 156 episodes for the next year and a half as part of a new entertaining drama designed to create social change.

“Our program will drive people to question themselves about their own behavior,” says Mathy Babaka Vangu, producer of the program, “because they will be hooked and before the end of Pambazuko they will identify themselves with the transitional character or the positive one. I am sure we will note a true change in the East of the DR Congo.”

Pambazuko is locally written, produced, and acted in Swahili and is broadcast across 14 community radio stations, members of the Hirondelle network, in eastern DR Congo. It’s the third drama in the DR Congo from a US-based nonprofit, Population Media Center (PMC) and people are excited to follow its stories until broadcast ends in August 2017. Print, radio, and television outlets have covered the launch of this new drama, achieving national press coverage.

PMC uses entertainment, engaging people with plot twists and suspenseful storylines, to change behaviors on tough health and human rights issues. Pambazuko addresses gender equality, education, rape, family planning, vaccines, HIV/AIDS, and nutrition among other issues. The characters role model different behaviors allowing the audience to observe, hope for specific outcomes, and discuss with their friends and neighbors.

“Our dramas are multi-issue because life is multi-issue,” says Kriss Barker, PMC’s VP of International Programs. “Powerful stories have to be multi-dimensional to be realistic and relatable.”

PMC’s approach appears to be working. PMC’s two other dramas in the DR Congo, Vivra Verra (“Time Will Tell”) in French and Elembo (“Footprint”) in Lingala, are in the beginning phases of monitoring program results. While it’s still too early in the broadcast to understand the full impact, the first round of monitoring at local clinics showed that among new clients who are radio listeners, 39 percent were motivated to access the clinic by Vivra Verra within its broadcast area, and 42 percent were motivated by Elembo within its broadcast area.

“While running a radio contest on Vivra Verra,” says Gabin K. Mabanzila, PMC’s DRC In-Country Director, “the majority of respondents called from the towns located in the [eastern] DR Congo and they expressed a strong interest in having a similar program produced in their main local language, Swahili. Now that this is done I am excited and proud that we met this promise.”

Although some of the issues across the three different dramas in the DR Congo are the same, the storylines, characters, and settings are all unique. PMC never repurposes a drama for a new language or region because the creation of each drama must be informed by the target audience. The challenges in achieving gender equality, education, or family planning in eastern DR Congo, for instance, could be different than those in urban Kinshasa in western DR Congo.

“Most of the time people are poor and don’t evolve because they don’t have the knowledge,” says Mathy. “My team and I, the writers and actors, were so eager to resume this work because we feel so concerned about the message of changing behavior. It is really what we need in the East.”

Pambazuko is funded by UNFPA, Global Affairs Canada; UNICEFDKT International; UNAIDS; US Embassy; Segal Family Foundation; and the Jane Goodall Institute.


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 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world.