Sustainable Development Success Stories

Kenya youth variety show

Location  Kenya.
Responsible Organisations Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Family Planning Association of Kenya and Johns Hopkins University/Population Communication Services.
Description The Kenya Youth Variety Show was undertaken as part of the Kenya Youth Initiatives Project to respond to young people s needs and questions about growing up and especially reproductive health related-information. The radio programme s interactive approach allowed youth to phone the studio directly with questions, which were answered by that week s health experts. Issues addressed ranged from relationships, to decision-making, pregnancy, STDs and HIV/AIDS, parent-child communication, and to drug abuse. Entertaining music spiced up the programme, which also invited celebrities, peer role models, average kids growing up in Kenya today, and parents for weekly discussions. Producers also made trips outside of Nairobi to record items for broadcast, including young people s opinions, dramas, interviews, and panel discussion in the various districts. The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation s (KBC) Production Team was responsible for producing the programme, with technical support from the Family Planning Association of Kenya and the Johns Hopkins University/Population Communication Services (JHU/PCS). Financial support was provided by USAID. A contract was established between KBC and FPAK under a larger sub-agreement between FPAK and JHU/PCS. Because of the programme s popularity and its following, corporate support was also received for the programme. An agreement was established with Johnson & Johnson (Kenya), a multinational pharmaceutical company, who used the programme to reach adolescents with information about personal hygiene products. Johnson & Johnson provided funding for ten episodes and participated in the programme through an on-air quiz and sent prizes to winners. The programme began airing in 1995 and continued until 1997, airing a total of 76 programmes. It is expected to begin airing again in 1998 with funding from UNFPA.
Issues Addressed Education, Health and Capacity building.
Results Achieved This radio programme filled the void of information about sensitive and not-often-discussed issues related to growing up and sexuality. It provided information for both adolescents and adults, made referrals, and served as an important tool for broaching sensitive topics of adolescence. A national evaluation showed that 63 % of adolescents aged 15-17 and 54 % of those aged 18-24 reported listening to the Youth Variety Show . Nearly one third of all adults over age 25 also reported listening to the programme. The programme s objectives were achieved. They included encouraging young people to talk to their parents or other trusted adults, to think about their own behaviour, to write to the programme producers, to visit a youth centre for more information, or to take other positive steps in relation to responsible sexual behaviour. One fifth of the young people aged 15-24 who reported listening to the programme took some action as a result of hearing it. Roughly 12 % reported speaking with someone about related reproductive health issues, 8 % reported thinking more about the programme s issues, 1 % wrote or called the programme or visited a youth centre. These figures may not seem large, but when taken in the context of adolescents and their perceived need and ability to take action, they suggest that the programme is eliciting a very positive response.
Lessons Learned
  • The variety show format is a powerful tool for addressing issues of interest to youth. Combining information and entertainment in a programme s format is highly effective. The flexibility of a variety show allows for discussion of many topics. Opening phone lines to young people enables the audience to set the agenda. It also allows candid dialogue among all ages while safeguarding privacy.

  • Young people can often raise sensitive issues most effectively, allowing adults to respond honestly and accurately to these questions, without being accused of raising inappropriate topics among young people. The responses from young people, reflected in their letters and phone calls, suggest they also respect the advice and guidance of sincere adults, as well as peers, particularly in response to their own situation.

  • A strong team is essential: KBC and FPAK provided effective leadership. The production plan outlined discussion topics well in advance of a programme, allowing for adequate preparation, and time to contact health experts and youth groups for their participation. The radio hosts were experienced with young people and were able to help them play a key role for the success of the programme.

  • High quality costs less in the long run. Having a proficient production team that can pull off a programme which is entertaining, yet research-driven, and based upon the needs of its audience pays. It leads to quality programming that attracts listeners, commercial advertisers, and donors.

Contacts Dr. Karusa Kiragu and Ms. Carol Sienché
Johns Hopkins University
Centre for Communication Programmes
Africa Division
111 Market Place, Suite 310
Baltimore, MD 21202-4012
Tel. (410) 659 6300; Fax (410) 659 6266
E-mail: kkiragu@jhuccp.org or csienche@jhuccp.org

Dr. Emily Obwaka and Mr. Dan Odallo
JHU/PCS Kenya Field Office
Amboseli Road, off Gitanga
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel. (254) 2 560 209; Fax (254) 020 569 478
E-mail: jhupcs@users.africaonline.co.ke