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From Airwaves to Action: How PMC’s Radio SHOWS Transformed Zambia’s Future

Aug 11, 2023

In the heart of Zambia, a revolution was brewing, not on the streets, but across the airwaves. From May 2021 to September 2022, two riveting radio shows – Kwishilya (“Over the Horizon”) in the Bemba language and Siñalamba  (“Breaking the Barrier”) in the Lozi language – struck a chord with millions. This groundbreaking venture was the brainchild of Population Media Center – Zambia (PMC-Zambia), crafted hand-in-hand with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Health. The full report about Kwishilya and Siñalamba’s impact can be accessed here.

Imagine the people of Central, Luapula, Muchinga, Northern, and Western Provinces eagerly tuning into 156 compelling 15-minute episodes, week after week. With each show, they navigated an intricately woven tapestry of storylines, shedding light on the pressing issues of our time – from the urgency of family planning to the relentless fight against gender-based violence, and from preventing teen sexually transmitted diseases like HIV to the battles against early marriages, poor maternal and child health, and malnutrition.

National Map Showing Areas of Broadcast

Every week, more than half a million listeners, men and women from teenagers to older adults, tuned in. Their lives subtly or remarkably transformed by the potent narratives of Kwishilya and Siñalamba. This extensive outreach, sustained with constant contact for well over a year, was achieved at a remarkably efficient average cost per listener of $1.11 for Kwishilya and $4.70 for Siñalamba.

Charles Kalonga, the inspiring Country Director of PMC-Zambia, attributes much of the success of the shows to the strength of PMC’s storylines. “Listeners see themselves in the story, and a bond between the characters and the listeners is formed,” Kalonga says. 

His words encapsulate the profound impact of these shows, far transcending the realm of mere entertainment, to serve as a beacon of societal change. As you navigate this report, you’ll witness the power of storytelling, the resonance of Kwishilya and Siñalamba, and their pivotal role in transforming health, education, and social norms in Zambia.


Spotlighting the Urgent Local Needs for Transformation

In Zambia, several local needs rose to the top with research and analysis. One key area is family planning. Kwishilya listeners demonstrated a higher likelihood to believe in their ability to determine their family size and were almost 20% more likely to use modern contraceptive methods to delay or avoid pregnancy. Similarly, Siñalamba listeners were over 90% more likely to believe their spouse/partner supports the use of family planning.

Another crucial area is civic engagement. Kwishilya listeners were over 35% more likely to believe in their capacity to become civically engaged, such as being able to register to vote or supporting women’s participation in politics/government. This demonstrates a growing awareness and interest in active citizenship.

A Look At Impact In Zambia

In terms of health, Kwishilya listeners were 1.4 times more likely to know where to get tested for Covid-19, indicating their improved access to testing and information. Siñalamba listeners, on the other hand, displayed greater awareness about HIV-related risks, including multiple partners, and were more likely to engage in discussions about HIV risks with others.

Addressing gender-based violence is also a pressing need in Zambia. Sinalamba listeners were 37% more likely to believe that community members can intervene and try to stop cases of gender-based violence, indicating an encouraging shift in social norms and attitudes towards combating violence against women.

Overall, the identified local needs in Zambia encompass family planning, civic engagement, health awareness (particularly related to HIV and Covid-19), and efforts to combat gender-based violence. Recognizing and addressing these needs contributes to the well-being and empowerment of individuals and communities across the country.


Exploring the Dynamic Influence of PMC’s Radio Shows on the Local Community

PMC’s radio shows, Kwishilya and Siñalamba, have ignited a wave of change within the local community and in the lives of listeners. These captivating dramas weave together powerful storylines that tackle pressing social issues, providing a platform for transformation and growth. 

Imagine the remarkable journey of a woman in Lukulu, burdened by the notion that her daughters were “capital” for marriage. But through the persistent melodies of Siñalamba, she underwent a remarkable transformation. Listening to the show each week, she learned the immeasurable value of educating a girl and the detrimental consequences of early marriage. Her intentions shifted, embracing a new path that prioritized empowerment over societal norms.

In the heart of Mitete, a member of a radio listener group witnessed a community-wide transformation unfold. People, once reliant on traditional healers, embarked on a new trajectory. They found solace in the radio shows, realizing the significance of seeking healthcare services from dedicated facilities for antenatal and delivery care. The stories dismantled age-old barriers, inspiring individuals to prioritize their well-being and that of their loved ones.

The power of these shows extends beyond personal change, spurring a wave of support and advocacy. A devoted listener of Kwishilya recounted an inspiring tale of friendship and resilience. When her friend received a positive HIV diagnosis, she didn’t hesitate to offer a lifeline, drawing strength from Musonda’s unwavering determination in the Kwishilya. By sharing Musonda’s storyline, she empowered her friend to embark on a journey of treatment and perseverance, ensuring a brighter future despite the challenges ahead.

stories of Impact

Agness and Bupe

Agness and Bupe had their first two children back-to-back in 2018 and 2019 without taking any recovery time or allowing Agness to focus on work. In their region, it was generally understood that men should keep their wives pregnant as often as possible so they are not appealing to other men. Unfortunately, myths and misconceptions like this prevent contraceptive use around the world. In 2019, Agness started to listening to the first Kwishilya series.

“Listening to the show together made it easier to have a conversation about spacing children using more modern forms of family planning,” said Agness. “Because of the happenings in Kwishilya, there were no misunderstandings. We both had all the information.”

Writing the Script for their Future

Jonas Chindamba 

Jonas Chindamba walked 104 miles from his home village in Zambia to the Mpika Community Radio station to pick up a T-shirt representing his favorite radio show, Kwishilya. This journey takes four days by foot and includes passage through North Luangwa National Park, home to wild animals such as lions, elephants, and black rhinos. 

“Jonas’ story is a reflection on how Kwishilya is more than just a storyline meant for entertainment — it’s making an actual difference in people’s lives, even more than we expected,” says Mwaka Naminga, PMC-Zambia’s Marketing and Communications Manager. “Not only the lives of the listeners but the lives of the communities around them, which is proof that the PMC methodology really works.”

The USAID report highlights the staggering listenership numbers and the diverse demographic makeup of the audience. From rural villages to bustling urban centers, these stories have found resonance across different age groups and languages. The engagement is evident, with listeners drawn into a world where their experiences and struggles are mirrored, giving rise to a collective journey towards a better tomorrow.

Empowering Kwishilya and Siñalamba Communities

Kwishilya and Siñalamba communities emerge as beacons of progress, making a significant difference in crucial areas such as child marriage, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and informed parenting decisions.

  Family Planning Paves the Way for Progress:

Nurturing the Next Generation:

Building Safe Havens:

Empowering Awareness, Fighting HIV/AIDS:


Exploring the Importance Behind It All

In a powerful evaluation of the radio shows, Kwishilya and Sinalamba, the impact on Zambian communities was unveiled. Over one million listeners were captivated at least once weekly by these shows, with resounding feedback about their entertainment value, realism, and impact.

The findings were remarkable. Listeners reported transformative changes in their lives. The significant changes observed in family planning, gender-based violence, and HIV-related knowledge highlight the success of the programs in influencing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. 

The impact extended beyond personal transformations. Communities experienced shifts in behavior, like increased use of clinics for healthcare. These stories proved to be catalysts for positive change, empowering individuals to make changes for themselves and advise friends and relatives towards healthier choices.

The staggering numbers — over one million listeners who tuned in at least once weekly— underscored the magnitude of impact on Zambian communities. The overall success of these radio shows is to be celebrated. They broke barriers, shattered stereotypes, and empowered individuals to embrace positive change. The stories brought life-altering transformations to countless Zambians.

Contact PMC-Zambia Country Director

Contact PMC-Zambia Country Director, Charles Kalonga, with questions, comments, or to request a full copy of the internal impact reports for Kwishilya and Siñalamba.
Email Charles Kalonga