Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rwandan Soap On the Radio

Got quoted in the International Herald Tribune this past Monday, but only found the article today. Here's an extract.

In 1994, radio in Rwanda was all about hate and violence. The government used it to incite people to kill, and the killers were often seen with a gun in one hand and a receiver in the other as they tried to locate enemies.

Today, Rwandan radio is a voice of hope and reconciliation. One of its most popular programs, the soap opera "Musekeweya," or "New Dawn," is about a country divided, much like Rwanda 13 years ago, but one in which the stars find a way around the conflict.

La Benevolencija, the Dutch organization that finances and produces the show, says the characters "represent a new attitude that harkens back to a much gentler generation of Rwandans."

The program, which aired from 1996 to 1998, covered issues like women's empowerment and health, HIV, family size and conservation. PCI Media Impact says on its Web site that in one village, a group was formed to end dowry-giving, something the government has tried in vain to limit since 1961.

Jonathan Marks, director of his own broadcast media consultancy, Critical Distance in the Netherlands, said radio serials were more attractive to listeners than lectures.

"These kind of shows can get the message across in a much less obvious way, not like educational programs do," he said.

Another advantage of radio is that it is very affordable. In Rwanda, as well as other developing countries, radios are omnipresent.

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