The mood was ecstatic and every one was jubilantly heaping praises on the entire establishment. That was what happened last week when the actors and organizers of Musekeweya, an edutainment radio program invited its listeners to celebrate together while they were marking five years on Rwandan air waves.
You could see that the audience was charmed and positively affected by the presence of the soap opera stars they have been religiously following on radio for the past five years.
People randomly threw glances to different directions and whispered to their neighbors “Hey that’s Manyoobwa, she’s the one behind the character” and others where like “The one in the middle is shema”, you could see that they were excited to be with the characters for a genuine reason as opposed to being just star-struck.
These are characters they have consistently been following every morning and evening in that if you found a person speaking about one of the, you could think they’ve met lately, but this has not barred listeners from being influenced and impacted by the reconciliatory and non-divisionism messages they portray.
In other places, theatre for development is much grown to the level of being employed by top notch NGO’s to spread a wide range of informative messages to their targeted groups of people.
Theatre for development is a form of edutainment which has been used to educate society in a variety of fields with an overriding intention of changing people’s attitudes and transforming them through drama acting, participatory skits, plays and so on.
The message to be transmitted onto the intended people can be packaged in drama and demonstrated practically in a community hall or be channeled through the various media outlets which people are convenient with such as radio or television.
Musekeweya as sponsored by an international La Benovolencia is channeled on Radio Rwanda and Contact radio every morning and evening, and due to the fact that the message is dramatically packaged with a lot of humor and wit which entertains people, they end up following it religiously and with in a short or long time they pick the message.
During an interview with Narcisse Kalisa the Managing Director of Urunana Development Communications another edutainment house in Rwanda which seeks to promote health and development, revealed that this approach is very prudent and feasible in having the beneficiaries participate and get involved in a particular program, though at times some have missed out due to failure by some people to access some of the media outlets like radios and televisions where the programs are at time channeled.
However he went a head to inform that they sometimes organize community outreach shows where urunana together with the beneficiaries perform in the communities, where people have given testimonies on how they have been impacted by the messages.
On top of that Urunana conducts monthly audience surveys where they get to interact with their listeners and beneficiaries to listen and assess the responses from the audience.
They also do a knowledge, attitudes and attitudes (KAP) survey where Urunana management gets to evaluate the progress and impact of their programs through analyzing and comparing the attitudes, practices and behavioral changes of the beneficiaries before intervention and after.
This development communication house also explores the actual needs and problems of the target group before intervention and this is done through staying in the communities with the target group, this shows how well planned this development tool is undertaken in Rwanda.
Among the indicators of the impact Urunana has had on the people in their 11 years of operation in Rwanda, is increase in people attending Voluntary Counseling and Testing and a general positive change in reproductive health.
Their target group this time around is rural women and youth of reproductive age, and these are monitored and involved in most of the message delivery with an intention of making them own the program.
Among the challenges faced is the complexicity of some cultures and norms which don’t deem prudent some of their programs and campaigns, this slows down their progress, another recent problem they faced was the closure of BBC Great Lakes, a channel which was prolific in airing their health programs.
“We are affected by the closure of BBC Great lakes because our listeners cannot access our health and developmental messages; we hope the differences between the radio and government get sorted out such that people don’t continue missing these programs” Kalisa said.
The other aspect that is central in theatre for development is the fact that its always interactive where by the organizers either train and mobilize the beneficiaries to be the actors, or a feed back loop is created where the beneficiaries call in to ask questions and there by learning.
Due to the practical nature of this approach, it has been found out to be highly practical and interactive there by enhancing attitudinal change and learning as a whole.