Advocacy Groups and the Entertainment Industry

By Michael Suman; Gabriel Rossman | Go to book overview

3
Using Soap Operas to Confront the World's Population Problem

Irwin Sonny Fox

In India, in a Doordarshan television network prime time serial, a fourteen-year-old girl is forced into an arranged marriage by her father. Angouri has a dream of becoming a barrister, and objects to being forced into consummating the marriage until she has had a chance to realize that dream. Her aspirations are destroyed by her mother-in-law who burns her books and beats her. Many months into the soap opera, the young girl dies in childbirth at the age of 15. The audience of 150 million viewers who watched this prime time series went into mourning, and a crucial point was made. Delaying the onset of childbearing is a good idea. Forcing children to start bearing children at 15 is not a good idea. For India, rapidly approaching a population of one billion, for the world, rapidly approaching six billion, and for all the Angouris of the world, this drama carried an impact no documentary or tract could possibly approach.

In Tanzania, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Brazil, and other countries where population and related health and social issues are of critical importance, other soap operas designed to change people's attitudes and behavior regarding family planning, health, women's empowerment, and other pro-social issues are being broadcast on radio and television. Behind this unique employment of the mass media is Population Communications International (PCI). Headquartered in New York, PCI has been developing this technique for 12 years.

The objective is to motivate individuals and communities to make choices in reproductive health and development that will contribute significantly to slowing world population growth. The work of PCI, based on the social learning theories of Professor Albert Bandura of Stanford University, is designed to complement the efforts of those involved in providing health services in these countries. With their emphasis on motivating audience members, these soap operas can break through the encrustation of many years of sexism and other anachronistic aspects of traditional culture that keep people from making sensible family planning decisions.

-13-

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