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Promoting health related issues through trans-media initiative in India

people (AP Photo/Sherwin Crasto) Source: AP

Entertainment education format and use of trans-media initiative is the way of the future in promoting health and women related issues in India says Poonam Muttreja the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India.

In 1970s, India established the Population Foundation of India (PFI) in New Delhi.

This NGO aims to promote population stabilization in India and global thinking on population and human development.

Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of PFI, says using “popular culture soap-opera-style serial (supported by radio, mobile, and interpersonal communication) is the way to promote critical thinking about population issues in India.”

Poonam Muttreja the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India
Poonam Muttreja the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India
Poonam Muttreja

The core of PFI’s initiative is a 52 episodes TV soap opera – Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon – screened by the Doordarshan.

This TV show weaves the issues – child marriage, age at first pregnancy, sex selection, and quality of reproductive health care – into an entertainment education format.

Poonam says “Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon is a trans-media initiative that aims to increase women’s agency by enhancing knowledge and changing perceptions on social determinants of health, as well as by challenging social norms around early marriages, first pregnancy, spacing between births, contraceptive use and sex selection.’

This TV shows reach is almost 90% of India’s population.

Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon
Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon - DD National show
Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon Youtube

“If one were to include rural viewers who have access to no other channel the numbers increase exponentially,” Poonam adds.

PFI’s projects includes radio broadcasts on All India Radio and the on-the-ground communication methods that can reach more than 200 community groups.

Poonam says “Engagement through mobile phones and Interactive Voice Response Systems to deliver information and provide a mobile platform for sharing feedback received over 300,000 calls in the first 4 months of the serial.”

She further ads “PFI’s work includes ending child marriage, empowering women, equal rights, health and gender justice – of treating women with dignity and equality.”

Poonam says “NGO’s often become preaching – with our new 360 degree communication approach, the intervention and the right message has reached out to intended audiences through TV, radio, mobile and an intensive outreach through NGO partners.”

“Drama series has revealed a positive change in the community post exposure. Awareness of Child Marriage Act among all the three target groups – married men, women and unmarried youths,” she adds.

Children play in the Shivaji Nagar slum
Mumbai's slums (AAP)

Further, through FP2020 partnership, Poonam adds “PFI aspires to secure and fulfil the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls to access quality, voluntary family planning services.”

“Equity and non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and rights are few of the principles on which FP2020 stands on,” she adds.

Poonam is hopeful that PFI’s initiative in use of trans-media will yield good results and attract other countries to pursue similar programs.

To know more about the Population Foundation of India and Poonam Muttreja’s work, listen to her conversation with Amit Sarwal.