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How Change Happens Around the World Through Entertainment

Apr 29, 2021

Some people consider entertainment to merely be an escape from daily life, and it certainly can be. But it is also capable of empowering people to help overcome potential conflicts. Let’s be honest, life can be messy, so successful entertainment often reflects interpersonal realities and address issues we’re all facing. Social impact entertainment, such as the radio and television programs produced by Population Media Center (PMC), combines high-quality storytelling with an array of life-changing information and messaging, all rooted in communication, psychosocial, and psychological theories. Here are just a few of the ways in which educational entertainment can drive measurable change around the world. 

Provides Role Models for Attitude and Behavior Change

Behavior theory shows us how fictional characters can serve as role models for audiences around the world. Just as we look to trusted individuals in our real lives to point us in the right direction, we often observe the actions of relatable characters in entertainment to determine the consequences of positive and negative behaviors. Positive, neutral, and transitional characters can model potential paths, help listeners avoid pitfalls, and demonstrate the benefits of positive behaviors.

For example, the PMC show Hεrε S’ra (“The Road to Happiness”), which aired in Burkina Faso, features characters who are faced with difficult issues related to sexual and reproductive health, family planning, gender equity, and educational access. One of the storylines features a man named Zézouma, who is married and has three children. He is given an array of advice from those around him when it comes to the use of contraceptives and reproductive health services. As the show’s transitional character, he’s also a reference for listeners who witness him making mistakes before adopting positive behaviors. Listeners of the show are not only entertained by the dramatic storyline and professional production quality, but they also learn the benefits of visiting a health clinic to ensure safe pregnancies and the advantages of using contraceptives. 

Combats Misinformation and Dangerous Norms

Misinformation and regressive cultural norms can contribute to real suffering and inequality around the world. Entertainment and public media campaigns can be a great way to dispel myths and encourage audiences to consider other perspectives. PMC shows have helped to dismantle misinformation around contraception, family planning, gender equality, and the environment.

For example, the PMC show Kwishilya (“Over the Horizon”), which began airing in Zambia in 2019, is intended to address adolescent reproductive health. One storyline introduces the character of Musonda, a quiet, 16-year-old girl living in the big city of Mwendapole. Originally from a rural village, Musonda must contend with the precarious dangers of her new life. She’s a good student with friends to help guide her, but as a young woman coming into her own, she’s not immune to the realities of life, including sexual violence and reproductive health challenges. This storyline’s focus on the struggles of adolescence, specifically those of a teenage girl, may be why Kwishilya has particularly resonated amongst women and adolescents.

Inspires People to Have Important Conversations

Change often requires having difficult conversations, and discussions involving taboo subjects like sexual and reproductive health can be especially tricky. Entertainment that reflects these conversations with relatable characters can provide inspiration and tactics for navigating these interactions in real life.

Discover the Impact Entertainment Can Have on Reproductive Health

Around the world, people of all ages are both positively and negatively impacted by social media, television, and other forms of entertainment every day, but adolescents are perhaps the most engaged with media messaging. In an effort to use the power of entertainment for good, PMC teamed up with Televisa to create Vencer el Miedo (“Overcome the Fear”), a television show that promotes healthier attitudes and behaviors around adolescent reproductive health. Read our case study to discover how the show had an outsized impact on discussions about reproductive health among audiences in Mexico.