Let me
take you back a few years when I found out I was pregnant. I was way past my
first trimester and the little darling growing inside of me had missed out on
the benefits of folic acid for four months. But what swallowed me whole was the
constant worry that things could go wrong. What's more, the often conflicting
advice I got from my close ones and friends was enough to induce nightmares.

The only
times I felt better were during my check-ups when the obstetrician reassured me
with a big smile that the little one had ten fingers and toes, a big head, a
pair of eyes and a strong beating heart.

I've been
constantly reminded of that wonderful but worrying time in my current job at
BBC Media Action. Since Christmas last year, I've been the script co-ordinator
on a TV drama we’re producing in Bangladesh called Ujan Ganger Naiya (Swimming
Against The Tide).

Power of

The show aims
to not just entertain people but also to improve family health in Bangladesh.

It sets out
to provide information and advice about antenatal care, postnatal care, birth
preparedness and how delaying early pregnancy can improve the health of a
mother and her children.

This is
done, for example, through female characters who, having ignored key danger
signs, suffer an obstructed delivery, experience potentially fatal bleeding, or
lose their child. 

Many of the
characters survive their journey, like boatmen rowing against the tide. 

Based in

To make
sure our drama reflects our audience's own experiences, our research team have
been gathering data and insights to inform our project.

findings include some of the most harrowing accounts of young pregnant mothers
in rural areas of Bangladesh - shocking enough to curl my straight hair.

my own experience of pregnancy doesn't seem so terrible.

example, our research team met girls who have had to marry young – and are just
not physically ready to be pregnant and give birth.

"Only five
months ago, I got married," one young girl from Brahmanbaria told our

"Although I
had no wish to have a baby so early, I had to because of pressure from my
in-laws. I feel severe headache and discomfort."

To address
this reality, therefore, we've created a character in our drama called Mou, who
is only 14 when she gets a marriage proposal.

Under the
pressure of an influential person in their community, her parents cave in to
the proposal. They don’t consider the consequences, or the life-threatening
risks involved with early pregnancy. For them, struggling to make both ends
meet, Mou is just one less mouth to feed.


research team has also helped us identify where the audience just doesn’t have
access to the right information.

example, one traditional birth attendant told our researcher that the thread
that's used to clamp the umbilical cord is "a thread only. It’s not used for
cutting, only for tying. For that reason it doesn’t need to be sterilised."

Such a lack
of hygiene poses a serious threat to lives every day in Bangladesh.  


Our drama
is careful to recognise the significant challenges that are faced by mothers
and their families who are trying to ensure a safe birth.

example, the bad roads or lack of transport in remote areas means it’s often difficult
to travel for antenatal care appointments.

sometimes husbands and parents-in-law can also act as barriers.

By using
emotionally engaging drama and compelling characters, we’re encouraging the
whole family to be part of the solution, and take their loved ones for
antenatal check-ups at least four times during pregnancy. 

whole family

As I well
remember from my own pregnancy, people listen and trust their close ones and
friends’ advice.

So how can
we make friends with our audience? The key is to have a simple yet interesting
story to tell.

If we get
that part right, we might be the kind of friend who reaches out with a helping


Related links

BBC Media
Action's work in Bangladesh

BBC Media Action's
health work

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Media Action