Stories have a big impact on a mass scale, especially when they reach as many people though the airwaves. Here Soraya Verjee, Entertainment Education Coordinator in Oxfam Haiti, tells us about their radio drama TIM TIM and how it’s helping to spread important messages  such as sanitation and health.

When you think of Haiti, what comes up in your mind? Cholera? The earthquake of 2010? The political problems that have plagued the country for years?

What some people may not think about is the rich storytelling culture of the country and the love Haitians have for a good old fashioned drama!  With over 300 stations running in the country, radio is the main source of information for the majority of Haitians; from extreme rural areas to bustling cities, to get their daily news and find entertaining content whilst they go along with their daily routines.

Oxfam in Haiti has been working with community radio stations for years, it’s considered the best way to engage with local communities in remote areas to get positive messaging out into the public on a mass scale. We realised recently, however, that the content needed to be changed. It was too “teachy”, wasn’t entertaining, and after the recent tragedies of the cholera epidemic and earthquake, most people shut off when they heard someone tell them how to wash their hands correctly on the radio.  We decided to explore ways to develop the different approaches needed for mass sensitization to be successful and went beyond the traditional direct messages. We needed to address the “fatigue” of public service announcements that were not appealing or promoting changes on a mass scale.

Through partnerships and research, we discovered the innovative methods of Entertainment Education (EE), a Communication for Development strategy.  EE is designed to move beyond the “awareness-generation” model to programming which is instrumental in changing not just the behaviours of the individual and community, but also the perceptions and social norms. By using methodologies which draw on stories to reveal new possibilities, they create dramatic conflicts where decisions are tied to real world consequences. The methodologies used in EE are unique in that their message is guided by several theories of human communication and social learning including Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious. Using EE methodologies, particularly the radio drama, more popularly known as “Radio Novellas”, TIM TIM, has allowed Oxfam to better measure the impact of our work in new ways, such as using ICT tools to engage and promote dialogue with our audiences.

Using FrontlineSMS, a text messaging online platform, TIM TIM sends out text messages after each episode is aired on the radio to its listeners.  The messages are mostly questions based on the characters’ decisions, attitudes and behaviours. The answers of which allow us to then gauge not only if people are engaged with the show, but if they are learning from the storylines. For example, after a scene where one of the characters Silfliz serves untreated water at her restaurant because she didn’t believe it would be harmful (eventually most of them contract cholera) we asked, “Do you think Silfiz is correct that she doesn’t need to serve treated water at her restaurant?”. Being able to challenge the listeners through provocative or stimulating scenes on a mass scale would only be possible through the use of this ICT tool. To date, TIM TIM is on its second season and we have received over 500 text messages from listeners not only in Haiti, but amongst the Haitian Diaspora who tuned into stations online to listen and interact with us!

What has been the most interesting experience in using FrontlineSMS has been the ability for us to compile and analyze the messages we’ve received, be it answers to questions or just messages of motivation, both positive and negative. Based on evaluations of the first season of TIM TIM, aired in 2015, we found that amongst the various forms of engagement listeners had with TIM TIM (Facebook, Twitter, Call in Shows, SMS), women (64%) interacted more than men (15%) using this fantastic ICT tool. We have also been able to evaluate which storylines were the most discussed, using Frontline. We found that amongst both male and female listeners the cholera and gender based violence storylines ranked top, and were  certainly the most dramatic themes in that season.  The opportunity to interact and engage with the target communities, particularly women, has been invaluable, but the ability to get this type of information has been revolutionary.

Now on our second season of airing TIM TIM on 4 major radio stations in the North and North East Departments of Haiti, we continue to learn on how best to interact with our audiences using ICT tools, whilst continuing to come up with creative ways to ask questions and poll listeners.  Being able to have instant feedback from our listeners on a mass scale has replaced the traditional forms of information gathering and once again, this has been invaluable and necessary for the projects involved to demonstrate impact amongst its target populations.

Quotes from listeners gathered on FrontlineSMS (translated from Creole to English): 

It is a very nice show and brought a lot of advice and I will put their advice into practice, but what I do not like the episodes are too short.

A person need not wait for NGOs to bring products to treat our water. If they do not bring them, you need to buy them yourselves.

I share number 801* to all those close to me and that could be found in situations where they are subjected to all kinds of violence.

*801 was a free help line promoted by the show which is run by an Oxfam partner which helps female survivors of violence.

Read More

Our work on the TIM TIM project

Follow the show on Facebook

Listen to the latest episode in Creole

Photo credit: David Levene/Oxfam

Soraya Verjee

Entertainment Education Coordinator

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