Segal Family Foundation commits to fund and support Population Media Center (PMC) and other key stakeholders in the creation and distribution of a radio soap opera and allied programs. The proposed project will be completed over the course of three years and will include the production and nationwide broadcast of a radio serial drama in Kirundi. The program will reach a large percentage of the Burundian population both in cities and in rural areas, via national and community radio stations.
Attempts to achieve positive health outcomes for girls and women sometimes fail to achieve maximum effect due to the absence of programming directed towards other stakeholders, such as men and boys or health workers. The behavior change soap opera will thus engage all groups with content that is entertaining, informative and relatable. The content and character formation will be driven by the priority issues of the stakeholders and informed by formative research on current attitudes and behaviors in the country that are related to those issues. The program will be custom-written for current Burundi culture and situations. Rural families make up the majority of the Burundian population, so much of the content will center on issues facing rural families in their daily lives, such as childbearing, nutrition, sickness, education, spousal relations, etc.
Segal Family Foundation will provide funding and convening support for the various actors involved in the project. SFF has a full-time Burundian staff member based in the country who will be able to coordinate project efforts and ensure that all parties are engaged.
Population Media Center will create and broadcast 208 episodes over two years.
The beginning of the project will consist of formative research, training, and pretesting pilot episodes. This will occur between May and December, 2013. Specific deliverables will include: 1) hire PMC-Burundi project director and other key administrative and technical staff; 2) establish an advisory committee to advise on technical content and to ensure that increased demand for health services can be satisfied by the available health infrastructure; 3) engage research firm to research current attitudes and behaviors of Burundians regarding health and social issues to be addressed by the drama, and to analyze the existing health and social service infrastructure; 4) train writers and actors; 5) engage scriptwriters, producer and actors to produce pilot episodes based on research findings and advisory committee's direction.
The radio broadcasts will run between January, 2014 and December, 2015. The program will be broadcast twice each week on national and community radio stations. Specific deliverables will include: 1) promotional campaign to raise awareness of program 2) establishment of listeners' groups to meet during broadcasts, discuss content of each episode, and provide feedback to the creative team 3) allied activities such as drama performances, call-in shows, and other activities to reinforce radio program themes.
A baseline study will be conducted immediately prior to the broadcast launch, in the first quarter of 2014. PMC will post a call for proposals from qualified research firms in Burundi, and will select a firm to conduct the baseline study from among the bidding agencies (based on technical merit and cost).
Post-broadcast evaluative (impact) research will occur between January and April of 2016, at which point the program and CGI commitment will be completed. During program broadcast, PMC will conduct process monitoring. Deliverables will include: 1) analysis of feedback and diaries of listeners' groups 2) interviews with new clients at selected health and reproductive health facilities to document increases in demand for services. The post-broadcast (impact) survey will include individual interviews with youth and other key demographic groups to discern their perspectives and actions regarding health decisions (compared against baseline assessment and comparing listeners and non-listeners).
Burundi is a country of over 10 million people, with approximately 88% of the population living on less than $2 per day, and a population growth rate of 3.1%, one of the highest rates in the world. The country's fertility rate is 6.4 children per woman, and only 18% of married women use modern methods of contraception. Such high fertility rates result in high maternal mortality rates, which are estimated at 866 deaths per 100,000 live births in Burundi. Approximately 6,300 children out of every 100,000 will die before their first birthday, and among children less than 5 years old, 63% are stunted or too short for their age. Addressing maternal and child death, reproductive health, and related social and health issues is crucial to not just improving the overall health and wellbeing of the people of Burundi, but is also essential to reducing poverty in the country and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
There is a tremendous need to increase and improve maternal and child healthcare in Burundi, but an equally important need to increase health-seeking behavior on the part of Burundians. This commitment will support the creation of an innovative Behavior Change Communications radio soap opera, to influence the attitudes and subsequent actions of youth and adult Burundians. This program aims to normalize use of health services, demonstrate the benefits to be gained by utilizing them, and highlight the possible consequences of not accessing health services during pregnancy, childbirth and sickness.
Media, including television, print, and radio, have been used to influence behavior since their inception. In the past few decades, these channels have been used for social behavior change messaging. One of the most effective approaches has been the radio serial drama or soap opera. Producers embed social messages within the plotlines of the program and listeners relate to sympathetic characters, leading to adoption of the characters' values and behavior.
Radio is by far the most economical and far-reaching mass media channel in Burundi. There are 17 radios for every television and 220 radios per 1,000 people. Radio is already the third most common source of health and family planning information (after friends and health professionals) in Burundi. Radio reaches diverse populations across urban and rural geographies, ethnicities, and income levels and the soap opera's entertainment value works to increase the influence of radio as a medium for conveying health information. Such soap operas have been effectively utilized by agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, and the World Bank in the past.
The innovative radio program, and allied activities, will raise awareness of and increase demand for child survival, reproductive health, and youth-friendly services in Burundi to reduce maternal and child mortality, empower women and young people to make their own reproductive decisions, and ultimately support the economic and social development of the country.