Using radio to bring social change in Zimbabwe

Article, 15.06.2017

In the background you can hear children playing and the chickens clucking. Miriam Moyo calls out to her six year old daughter Chipo to go and fetch water from the well about five kilometres from their homestead. Chipo says she needs to finish her homework as it is getting dark. Her mother insists that the chore needs to be done. Chipo reminds her mother about her rights, but she is chided with threats of corporal punishment if she does not comply

Using radio to bring social change in Zimbabwe
Child marriage predominantly affects girls who live in poverty. Discussing child marriages on radio has enhanced the reach of the message to girls and their parents or guardians who think that they have no option out of this out-dated practice. Embassy of Switzerland in Zimbabwe

The rampant cases of child abuse are a cause of concern among many Zimbabweans. Child sexual abuse for example is on the rise with law enforcement authorities reporting more than 100 girls that are sexually abused every day —more than at any other time in the history of the country.

But, unlike most Zimbabweans, Miriam and Chipo are not real. They are characters on “Your Child and their Rights”, a 15 minute radio drama produced by Savanna Trust with support from the Embassy of Switzerland. The project entitled Enhancing Awareness and Dialogue on Child Protection in Zimbabwe focusses on providing a platform for people to discuss issues around child rights, exploitation and violence.

Savanna Trust has been developing radio drama since 2006, when it was established. Since then, the organization has been using theatre and radio drama to amplify and enhance the work of other civil society organisations particularly those working with children in Zimbabwe and the region.

The Enhancing Awareness and Dialogue on Child Protection in Zimbabwe project focuses on specific child protection issues inspired by real life experiences of children such as child sexual abuse, early and forced child marriages, lack of identity documents, neglect and child labour among others. Experts on children’s rights engage on the issues raised in the drama, while radio listeners are afforded an opportunity to participate through live phone-ins and texting through WhatsApp and SMS.

“When Savanna Trust broadcasts, Zimbabweans listens,” says Daniel Maposa the Director of Savanna Trust. “The feedback that we have been receiving through the SMS and WhatsApp platforms shows that a lot of people are listening and participating in the programme.”

According to the Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey, a majority of Zimbabwean families including those that have reported cases of child abuse are more likely to have a radio including on their mobile phones, making the Savanna Trust radio drama particularly effective for reaching the most affected households.

Feedback from listeners of the programme shows that the radio drama has empowered them to seek assistance from Childline, a child rights centred organisation working as a referral partner with Savanna Trust.

“We were proud to hear such kind of feedback because this was the planed outcome of the project. Through the radio drama which airs on one of the most popular radio stations in the country – Radio Zimbabwe, we are able to share issues related to children’s rights with an audience of millions in areas which are traditionally difficult to reach with other forms of programming”, added Maposa.

Recordings of the radio drama will further be distributed to community radio stations and schools to spread the message on child rights. Communities and teachers will also receive the drama recordings with the familiar voices of the actors they have come to identify with.