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PMC-Niger’s Workshop for WRITERS IS Shaping children’s futures through radio

PMC-Niger Jan 24, 2024

Between November 28 and December 15, 2023, the Population Media Center-Niger office, with technical and financial support from UNICEF, hosted a writing workshop in Niamey, the capital of Niger. The workshop aimed to initiate the development of the initial phase of a radio series centered around children’s rights, employing the PMC methodology derived from Miguel Sabido’s approach to education through entertainment. 

In the context of the co-creation of a radio series focusing on children’s rights in Niger, an intensive training workshop was organized. The workshop, aimed at the soap opera’s scriptwriters and producers, covered PMC methodology, writing for radio, dramatic techniques, and dialogue design. 

Initiated over 50 years ago by Miguel Sabido, this methodology, adapted by Population Media Center (PMC), offers a novel approach to education through entertainment. Unlike traditional soap operas, these dramas, based on in-depth qualitative and quantitative research, are designed to catalyze social change. Audiences learn not only from their own behavior but also from observing and modeling the behavior of members within their communities. 

Soap operas produced according to this methodology enable target audiences to learn from their mistakes and the failures and successes of characters with whom they have established an emotional bond. Observing characters in educational entertainment programs is essential in stimulating reflection and promoting behavioral change. It fosters a sense of self-efficacy by allowing viewers to observe how characters overcome obstacles and find solutions to adopt desirable behaviors. 

The writer’s workshop kicked off with a series of speeches focusing on the PMC approach: 

Abdou Saley Moussa, the PMC-Niger Country Director, stated, “this workshop was not just a meeting but the starting point of a wave of transformation led by a committed team. 

The PMC-Niger Country Director was followed by Christina Guérin, the PMC methodology trainer and Country Director in Haiti, who emphasized that “the power of reshaping the world through every word written and every story told is a responsibility that PMC embraces with passion.”  

Lamoussa Robgo, PMC Country Director in Burkina Faso, added that the PMC approach is “the unity transcending borders in the common struggle for change between PMC-Haiti, PMC-Burkina Faso, and PMC-Niger.” 

Ms. Amina Niandou, Communication and Media Specialist, led a special session on “Gender and Media” asserting that “gender equality is the fabric of their (PMC’s) radio stories, where every word and every voice counts because radio does not discriminate.” 

The session “Gender equity and equality – inclusive writing for radio,” led by Ms. Amina Niandou, breathed life and passion into the fight for equitable communication.” 

Workshop participants 11/28/23, Photo credit: Adama Z 

Enlightening thematic sessions 

Abdou Ali, Social and Behavioral Change Specialist for UNICEF Niger, led sessions dedicated to themes identified by UNICEF Niger. He presented the challenges hindering the realization of children’s and adolescents’ rights in Niger, as well as the guiding principles of the evidence-based entertainment education approach. These focused on girls’ education, child marriage, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, adolescent nutrition, and gender-based violence. 

“In Niger, only 13% of women were involved in decisions concerning their health care, and 19% in decisions concerning major household purchases. For one in three women (33%), it is justified that, for at least one of the reasons cited, a man has the right to beat his wife. This education-through-entertainment initiative will encourage national and local dialogue and community action in favor of adopting positive practices that lead to realizing children’s rights,” he added. “Combining entertainment with journalism and interactive programming, social media, social mobilization, and political advocacy allows us to act at all levels to influence parents’ behaviors, community leaders, health and education service providers, and policymakers. 

The UNICEF team, represented by Matti Dan Mallam Adamou and Binta Saley Souley, Communication Specialist and Media Relations Officer, respectively, also delivered a presentation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) principles. This included the notion of the child’s best interests and the non-discrimination of children worldwide who must enjoy the same rights. They also covered the guiding principles for ethical reporting on children, emphasizing the sensitivity required when involving children in production. 

An exploration of social and behavioral realities 

CESER Consulting shared the preliminary results of formative research using qualitative and quantitative methodology on social and behavioral determinants, such as the availability and quality of sexual and reproductive health services, decision-making patterns, school policies, accessibility, and interest in food. 

Nutrients, attitudes, gender ideologies, community dynamics, and emerging alternatives related to girls’ education will be explored. Normative and empirical expectations, meta-norms, attitudes, and behaviors of reference networks, as well as the communication environment in the fight against child marriage and gender-based violence, will be measured among adolescents aged 10 to 14, in-school and out-of-school adolescents aged 15 to 19 in urban and rural areas of Maradi, Tahoua, and Zinder. The results will serve as evidence for the creation of scenarios that are both realistic and relevant. The final objective is the production of a soap opera aimed at promoting social and behavioral change, transforming descriptive and injunctive norms, and supporting dialogue and social cohesion for the realization of children’s rights in Niger. 

Exchange session between participants 11/28/23, Photo credit: Adama Z

The art of storytelling to inspire change 

The core focus of the writers’ workshop was screenwriting, featuring theoretical presentations, practical exercises, and case studies. Participants shared their creations, receiving constructive criticism in an atmosphere of mutual collaboration and learning.  

Over the three weeks, the diversity of the participants fueled lively and passionate discussions. Beyond developing writing and storytelling skills, this workshop offered a collaborative learning opportunity, reinforcing team spirit and a passion for radio fiction. 

Concrete workshop results 

The results of this workshop are palpable. Twelve participants were trained in the basic concepts of the PMC approach. The writers used this knowledge and the preliminary results of the formative research to define behavioral objectives and develop a context-specific values grid. The creative team developed 19 characters, including positive deviant characters, who will embody both positive and negative values. Transitional characters, who would change their attitude and behavior to the issues addressed in the soap opera, were also identified, along with four sets and scenarios aligned with the desired behavioral changes. 

“This workshop was not just a meeting, but the starting point of a wave of transformation led by a committed team.”

Abdou Saley Moussa, PMC-Niger Country Director

By the end of the workshop, twelve participants had not only acquired a thorough understanding of PMC’s methodology but had also developed the skills needed to tackle sensitive themes with appropriate scenarios. This initiative promises to be a great way of using education through entertainment to bring about positive social change in Niger and beyond. 

Over the next few weeks, the participants will write and produce three pilot episodes of the radio series, as well as the key messages, which will be tested with the target audience to determine their reactions to the various characters, the entertainment quality of the radio series, the clarity of the dialogue, and other factors that will determine whether the program will be a success. This work will continue until all 72 episodes have been produced for the project, which will be broadcast on 172 community radio stations and social media in Niger. 

Family photo of participants, 11/28/23 at the Royal Hotel, Photo credit: PMC Niger