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Entertainment Education

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development has been the guiding policy document for the member states of the United Nations concerned with population issues since its adoption in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. Section 11.23 of this document notes that “Governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector should make greater and more effective use of the entertainment media, including radio and television soap operas and drama, folk theatre and other traditional media to encourage public discussion of important but sometimes sensitive topics related to the implementation of the present Programme of Action.”

Social learning theory demonstrates that people learn from role models. Long-running serialized dramas on radio and television — in other words, soap operas — that are created by local writers, actors, and production staff, can create programs that are culturally sensitive and appropriate to bring about positive behavior changes as they relate to the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.

Specifically, through the use of “positive,” “negative,” and “transitional” fictional characters exhibiting different behaviors, the range of behavioral options the real-world audience is aware of is broadened. Audience members gradually learn the consequences of decisions the characters make around a variety of issues.

Entertainment education is a strategy proven to engage audiences, introduce ideas, and empower people to make better-informed decisions by offering the audience information and encouraging self-assessment and discussion within their social circles. These new social dynamics create the conditions for lasting changes in social norms to take root. Crucially, changes in social norms are an essential component to many issues germane to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, such as universal access to reproductive health, improved status of women and girls, and overcoming social barriers to unrestricted access to modern contraception.

Population advocates should be familiar with this and promote this strategy, which can address a wide variety of human rights and human health issues issues related to slowing down and stopping human population growth.

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