Can a radio series change attitudes and norms on violence against women?

Oxfam Gender, Methodology


Imagine you could just broadcast an entertaining radio soap opera, starring everyone’s favourite celebrities, and listeners would change their attitudes and perceptions of norms about violence against women for the better. Sounds too good to be true? We recently tried to find out as Caroline Hodges, Impact and Knowledge Specialist, explains.

Edutainment combines media entertainment with educational messages and social mobilization. It has been held up for its potential to achieve positive changes in attitudes, behaviours and social norms on a large scale. But there is still little rigorous evidence to back these claims, especially about its effectiveness on issues such as violence against women. 
Noha embodies a strong empowered woman encountering and tackling typical issues faced by women in the Arab world.
Oxfam implements edutainment programmes globally. In order to generate our own evidence on the impact of this approach, our impact assessment team recently conducted a rigorous (randomized) evaluation of an edutainment pilot project aiming to change attitudes, norms and behaviour related to violence against women and girls in Tunisia. According to the latest data almost half of women in Tunisia have experienced at least one form of violence in their
lifetime, of which 41.2% physical violence and 75.4% harassment in the public space.

Along with our local partners we organised people into groups to listen to “Worth 100 Men”, an Egyptian radio series produced by Womanity Foundation. The series follows Noha, an Egyptian female journalist, played by the widely popular actress Mona Zaki. Noha embodies a strong empowered woman encountering and tackling typical issues faced by women in the Arab world. At work, she faces discrimination and harassment. At home, her sister is in a violent relationship and her
parents don’t appreciate her focus on her career. 

After listening to episodes, project participants engaged in a debate on the topics covered by the series. Participants were from different social backgrounds: trade unionists, unemployed, students, and those coming from marginalised neighbourhoods. Some had been previously exposed to our partners’ women’s rights work while others were approached for the first time. Participants listened to a total of 30 episodes of around 8 minutes each, over a period of 6 to 10 weeks.

We wanted to know whether listening to and debating the series led to changes in knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of social norms with regards to women’s empowerment and violence against women. We compared those who listened and debated to those who had not. We also wanted to find out whether Tunisian listeners, who speak a different Arabic dialect to those in Egypt, enjoyed the series and identified with its characters. As such series are expensive to produce we wanted to know whether using a series produced in one country could have impact elsewhere in the Arab

The evaluation finds evidence of impact on: 

  • Awareness: following the series, participants were more likely to report personally knowing someone who had suffered from violence.
  • Attitudes: after having listened to the series, participants were also less likely to justify violence against women.
  • Intention to take action: following the series participants were more likely to intend to advise others who suffer from violence to speak out.

There was no difference in impact between men and women.
impact is likely produced through engaging in the discussions… rather than exposure to the series alone
No impact was found on attitudes that justify women staying in violent relationships, or on changes in perceptions of social norms, such as how participants think others in their community think about violent relationships, or the way participants thought about the role of women in society. This may have been due to the short implementation span of the project, or that the project did not link up with a wider campaign in society.

Survey results showed that both men and women liked the series and discussions and identified with the main characters. Evidence from the in-depth interviews indicated that impact is likely produced through engaging in the discussions, where participants critically reflect and attitudes are challenged, rather than exposure to the series alone. This suggests that scale-up should not focus exclusively on national broadcasts but also on social mobilisation.

Another important mechanism seems to be the participants’ increasing confidence and motivation to discuss issues and have an opinion on them. Facilitators of listening sessions should therefore first work on building self-confidence amongst participants to enable them to participate fully in the debates. In-depth interviews also showed that participants who felt more confident were even more likely to discuss the issues with friends and family, which indicates the potential for spill-over effects.

There was evidence that despite the Egyptian dialect and context of the series, many listeners in Tunisia appreciated the character of Noha. Many identified with Noha and used her experiences to make up their own minds on specific issues, even though the series was not adapted to the local context. Savings could be made by using the same Arabic language products throughout the region. However, even more impact could potentially be achieved with either a regional series produced with the intention of broadcasting throughout the region, or a locally-produced contextualised

In conclusion, the evaluation produced some evidence that listening to an edutainment radio show and engaging in a debate on its topics can have impact on knowledge, attitudes, and intentions to take action on violence against women and girls. Changes are likely produced by active participation in the debates following listening to the series, rather than just listening. Edutainment programmes should therefore include social mobilisation components, rather than expect wide-spread changes through broadcasting on the radio alone.

Read more

Author: Caroline Hodges
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.