A straw roof house next to a hill in Zambia
the latest

USAID Awards $2.6M to Population Media Center to Improve Health of Women and Children in Zambia

Jun 13, 2018

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VTThe United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently awarded $2.6 million to Population Media Center (PMC) to develop and disseminate content targeting behavior change for use on community radio to support improvements in the health of Zambian women and children.

In support of America’s foreign policy, USAID leads the United States Government’s international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people progress beyond assistance. PMC focuses on health, human rights, and environmental issues around the world by creating change through entertaining multimedia stories.

“I have lived and worked in Africa for many years and can attest to the power of community radio,” said USAID/Zambia Mission Director Patrick Diskin. “Through PMC and the USAID Community Radio Program, our goal is to reach a greater number of women and children with important messages that will help improve their basic health and overall quality of life.”

In Zambia, PMC will design radio shows that will be broadcast on strategically selected community and commercial radio stations. Radio is the most commonly used form of mass media among Zambian adults and adolescents. Both 156 episodes, these shows will be produced in the local languages of Bemba and Lozi. One show will be broadcast in Bemba in the Muchinga, Luapula, and Central provinces, while the other will be broadcast in Lozi language in the Western province.

PMC looks forward to working in Zambia, a first for the U.S.-based nonprofit. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to work in Zambia,” said Kriss Barker, PMC’s Vice President of International Programs. “PMC looks at a number of indicators to determine our priority countries and Zambia ranks high on many of them. Zambia’s rapidly expanding population faces many challenges. As you might expect, Zambia’s women and children suffer the most, but PMC can build upon the work in progress, both from a policy and infrastructure standpoint, and catalyze significant change.”

More than 50 percent of Zambians are unable to afford basic needs. The country has a high youth population, with more than half the population under age 18; high rates of teenage pregnancy, with almost one-third of teens experiencing pregnancy; and high rates of early marriage, with more than one-third of women being married before turning 18. Consequently, child marriage and early motherhood contribute significantly to low rates of education for women, with only 15.9 percent of women between ages 20-24 having completed secondary school.

PMC has broadcast in more than 50 countries, using unique approaches to address social and environmental issues that are culturally appropriate. The nonprofit produces popular fictional shows in countries and communities around the world, often drawing huge audience. The stories illustrate real choices and challenges faced by people in the communities and introduces the audience to different choices and outcomes, all without telling an audience what to do.

“The audience learns vicariously,” said Barker. “We all learn by watching others.  Cliffhangers bring the audience back show after show, and the long-running nature of the show allows the audiences to change and grow with different character models, as they see new actions and ideas not considered before.”

“Zambia is ranked 139th on the United Nations Development Programme Gender Inequality Index,” said Charles Kalonga, PMC-Zambia Resident Representative, who will oversee PMC’s project in Zambia. “Our show will address family planning, nutrition, gender-based violence, and HIV. These are tied to other issues, like maternal and child health, early marriage, adolescent pregnancy, and to address these issues impacting women and youth we must have a culturally sensitive social behavior change approach. Our approach will consider the Zambian local cultural contexts. We will undoubtedly inspire change on a wide scale and have a great positive impact.”

In addition to the $2.6 million of support from USAID, the Bergstrom Foundation is providing $135,600 in matching funding. The USAID Community Radio Program project is now underway and will continue until early 2021.


Population Media Center is a nonprofit leader in entertainment-education, dedicated to women’s rights and empowerment, population stabilization, and the environment. For the past two decades, PMC’s entertainment programming has promoted social and cultural change and has helped 500 million people in more than 50 countries. www.populationmedia.org


In support of America’s foreign policy, the United States Agency for International Development leads the U.S. Government’s international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.