MTV Shuga Down South BW is back on radio

Now also on RB2, the drama has a wider reach. Add Orange’s 124 Service and the Shuga gets sweeter. Staff Writer GOSEGO MOTSUMI can attest to that

The groundbreaking radio drama, “MTV Shuga Down South BW,” has made a return to the airwaves to tap into issues of behavioural change among the youth. In May this year, UNICEF, in partnership with NAHPA and MTV-SAF, introduced MTV Shuga Down South BW, which is a mass-media behavioural change campaign that fuses sexual health messaging with gripping storylines, exploring issues of sexual relationships among young people.

This production initially aired on the youthful radio station, Yarona FM, and has since increased its footprint to broadcasting on Channel 2 of Radio Botswana (RB2) where it continues to shape narratives and influence behaviour and attitudes. “The concept of the radio drama is to use the edutainment model as a vehicle to impact behavioural change by creating content that educates at-risk youth on their sexual and reproductive health,” said Communications for Development Officer at UNICEF, Joseph Segodi, in an interview.

“It tackles young people’s issues such as inter-generational sexual partners, gender-based violence and transactional sex. Through stories that resonate with their own life, young people learn about HIV and having mutually respectful relationships.”

According to Segodi, young Batswana have factual knowledge about safe sexual behaviour but face challenges when it comes to putting this knowledge into practice. This disconnect has resulted in high HIV prevalence among young people aged 15-24 years (9.3% among young women and 5% among young men). The latest estimates show that young people aged 15-24 account for a third of new HIV infections (34%), with the majority of infections (69%) occurring among young women.

“We knew that we had to reach young people in a more fun and creative way if we wanted to reduce the number of new HIV infections among this group,” Segodi said.

The storyline follows a group of young people and focuses on HIV prevention and testing (including HIV self-testing), PrEP and treatment, condom use, inter-generational relationships and multiple concurrent partnerships with the aim of empowering the youth with information, knowledge and skills in order to protect themselves from HIV and to seek treatment. It addresses gender-based violence and social norms that perpetuate violence, HIV and teenage pregnancy. It also focuses on creating demand for HIV self-testing, condom use, pre-exposure prophylaxis and other HIV prevention strategies. The use of multi-platform approaches by the producers will expand the reach to young people who are in need of the information throughout the country.

“The characters of the radio drama include KayGee, Bongi, Bra King, Pat, Dineo, Morati, Q, Sol and Thato,” Segodi explained. “All of these characters are played by budding and well-known actors and voice artists.”

The radio drama was conceptualised in 2019 and draws inspiration from Botswana youths, their interests and lifestyles and the challenges they face in making safe decisions concerning their sexual health. It also builds on the success and lessons learnt from Season One of Shuga Radio, Ma2000BW.

The Shuga radio drama series is also accessible by young people through an interactive voice response platform called 124 Service where any Orange subscribers can dial 124 to access the episodes at their convenience or play the MTV Shuga Down South BW Interactive game which allows players to choose their adventure and take ownership of their decisions.