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How Population Media Center’s Radio Drama Series Umurage Are Positively Impacting Lives

Dec 10, 2020


John Mugabo (not real name) lives in Gasabo district. He says that Umurage (“Heritage for a Better Future”) radio drama series has helped him understand how couples should find a common ground when it comes to family planning debates.

He says: “What I learned and liked much from Umurage Season 3 is the story about Koffi and Teta; as a father and a married person, the message encourages couples to go for family planning and communicate better which is sometimes difficult especially with us men.

According to him, the message he gets is that as a husband, he needs to for instance sit with his wife to agree on the number children they should have, instead of dictating just because one is a man.

Umurage 3 and many other seasons including Umurage 2 have been produced under the partnership of Population Media Center (PMC) and Umurage Communication for Development (UmC).

PMC is a US-based, International NGO that specializes in entertainment-education, whereas UmC is a Rwandan NGO based in Kigali, which strives to promote positive behavioral change around social, economic and health issues, by the use of effective communication strategies.

Claudine Mukamana, one of the best performing students in school debates on sexual reproductive health and child rights, organized by UmC in collaboration with SWISS Coop and other stakeholders.

Umurage 3 was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Society for Family Health (SFH Rwanda), the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Global Fund, and Swiss Cooperation.

Umurage 3 was a 154-episode radio serial drama aired from November 2018 through May 2019 in Kinyarwanda.

It addressed issues on child protection, nutrition, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), reproductive health and family planning.

On the other-hand, Umurage 2 was a 156-episode radio serial drama that was broadcast from August 2017 to July 2018 across eight radio stations.

The drama addressed the themes of child protection, sexual and reproductive health among the youth, child health and nutrition, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Another listener of Umurage drama series, a young woman from Gasabo, also shares how it changed her life for the better;

She said: “Let’s for instance talk about Diane’s life in the drama. Diane used to have unprotected sex and contracted sexually transmitted diseases after Kivumba had dumped her in a trench. She was later advised by Gogo to stop having unprotected sex.

Gogo was also concerned whether Diane had gone for treatment [for HIV] and she replied that it was tricky because she (Diane) was still seeing Kivumbi. What I learned from this scenario is that I need always to encourage my friends to have protected sex in case they fail to abstain”.


A PMC staff member sets up a computer while wearing a Umurage shirt

According to Jean Bosco Kwizera, Resident Representative of UmC/PMC-Rwanda, radio serial dramas have yielded good results in terms of positively changing behavior of the society.

He said: “Based on research, most of the societal challenges like stunting, children’s right abuse and many others are caused by ignorance. Before composing drama series, we consult available research findings to know apparent problems and causes, and then compose relevant educative series around that.

“According to outcomes of our recent research, these serial dramas are creating positive behavioral change in the society. We are thrilled about that and thankful to all our partners for making this possible,” he added.

To evaluate the impact of the Radio Serial Drama (RSD) on knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of the target audience, PMC contracts independent research firms to conduct nationally representative cross-sectional surveys immediately after broadcast conclusion.

Findings show that Umurage 2 had a rate of over 71 percent listenership on different radio stations, with about 3.5 million listeners that have heard about it both from rural and urban areas confirming how the drama positively changed their lifestyle.

The drama registered success by reaching an estimated 1.1 million loyal listeners every week, from June 2017 to June 2018.


An independent Rwandan research firm KLS also conducted a nationally representative, cross-sectional end-line survey in July and August 2018.

The survey sample was representative of the target population and stratified by province.

The total sample on people of reproductive age was 3,373 through interviews (52 percent women, 48 percent men).

The greatest impact concerned attitudes about disciplining children where findings revealed that listeners of Umurage were 2.5 times more likely than non-listeners to think that a parent is not justified in spanking his/her children for any one of four reasons: (1) if they perform badly in school because of doing household chores, (2) if they disobey their parents, (3) if they are impolite to their parents, and (4) if they brought shame to the family.

For the youth sexual and reproductive health indicators, results found that listeners of Umurage were 1.7 times more likely than non-listeners to have discussed risk behaviors related to early pregnancy with their peers in the last six months.

For SGBV indicators, listeners of Umurage were 2.4 times more likely than non-listeners to think that a husband is not justified in hitting or beating his wife if she neglects the children.