From Inside Out

Jember and Biiftuu Jireenyaa – Sophia Wilkinson

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Acting Head of Health and Resilience


We were going to need to really engage men. In order to improve maternal and newborn health they’d have to be engaged because of women’s lack of power and decision making ability. How do you engage them when you’re working on issues that are traditionally seen as women’s issues? The way that the team went about it was to have a male presenter as well as a female presenter so that the audience would hear a man talking about mother and baby issues; the presenter was very willing to share his own experiences which made people relate to him. The shows are listened to by 14 million people every other episode and so he is hugely well known – almost half the adult population in the three states is listening!

There was an episode when he made Injera on air and his first attempt failed spectacularly – but he laughed and took away a real appreciation about how hard it is to make the bread, this really resonated with listeners. Embedding things wherever possible in existing structures helps things to create a bigger splash and contribute to sustainability. Outreach work can be questioned in terms of its value, its time consuming and takes a lot of co-ordinating – but listening/discussion groups really do deepen people’s understanding of issues and get things talked about and add tremendous value.

The success of the two shows in Ethiopia is because they were absolutely rooted in the local storytelling traditions and the ways that people communicate with each other. For the first time, radio programmes were filled with the voices of ordinary Ethiopians, full of proverbs, music and real voices – they grew from the culture there; this was no western style show.

PSAs (public service advertisements/announcements) do make the difference, all the research shows they do – they reinforce people’s knowledge and are played out so regularly that issues are kept ‘top of mind’. They can be creative – mini stories in themselves and grab listeners’ attention. They have to be done well; you can’t just play out slogans.

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