Author: Nokholo Mhluzani, April 30 2015 - Towards the end of the year 2014 Action IEHDC [Action Institute for Environment, Health and Development Communication] produced a television talk show under the Wize Up, your decision your life campaign. The television show that aired on Zimbabwe’s local television station, ZBCTV, was primarily targeted at young people in the 15 to 24 years age group. An audience reception research that was conducted after the show aired proved that Wize Up was a resounding success.

The audience reception of the Wize up TV talk show indicated that it was liked, and considered to be educative, interesting and captured the interest of the youths. The show was targeted at young people and as a result the guests to the show were youths. It was viewed to demystify the common myth that sex and sexuality issues cannot be discussed with parents. The show became a spring board for young people to start communicating with their parents on sexuality issues. 

The talk show proved to be the first of its kind that talked about sexual reproductive health and rights while allowing youths to participate freely and express their concerns and challenges. It also brought all implementing partners together to share their expertise thereby complementing each other’s efforts in educating young people of Zimbabwe. The TV talk show was rated as being highly interactive while also empowering youths to take charge of their lives. The show was liked for tackling real life issues and bringing in testimonies that reinforced understanding of issues among young people.

The feeling among young people and parents was that lack of communication creates perceptions that form barriers that prohibit people from sharing and helping each other on issues of sex and sexuality. The show was seen as a source of correct and accurate information for young people as it dealt with their issues and created platforms where they engaged further and got assistance on some of the issues that have been bothering them.

The Wize up TV talk show was generally well received by young people, parents and other stakeholders concerned with SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights]. The programme was seen as addressing real life issues faced by the young people regarding sexuality and growing up. The target audience also indicated that they expected the talk show to continue beyond 13 episodes and so it became clear that there is a need to go into season 2 of the talk show. The involvement of youthful presenters and the attendance of both young and older guests, drawn from a wide range of organisations, on the show were considered as having contributed immensely to the success of the show.

Some people who had a keen interest in the topics of discussion did not have access to ZBCTV while others failed to watch due to rampant electricity load-shedding. In an effort to reach out to these people, Action IEHDC distributed 1248 DVDs which were packaged into 96 sets with 13 episodes each.  The idea was that the DVDs could be played in health centres and/ or youth friendly centres waiting rooms or young people’s community clubs.

Due to the fact that social media is widely used in the country and has become a trusted source of information Action IEHDC used Google+, YouTube, blog, website, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp platforms to discuss SRHR. It is suffice to say some of the platforms were not used because they were found to be irrelevant to the target audience like the blog and Google+. Others were used at a later stage as influenced by the versatile nature of the social media strategy. YouTube, Twitter (@ActionIEHDC) and Facebook (Wize up, Your decision, your life Zimbabwe) were used a lot.

Social media was used to garner viewers for Wize Up television talk show and also to hold follow up discussions after the show had aired. Through these platforms Action IEHDC got feedback as people concurred while others disagreed with what was shared during the show.

WhatsApp was introduced as a platform that would offer the target audience space to engage Action IEHDC openly but also get some level of privacy. WhatsApp also provided the opportunity to converse on a very affordable forum at the convenience of the audience. Unlike Facebook and Twitter where the viewers had to wait for the Action IEHDC to post or pose a question, on WhatsApp the viewers could ask a question or start a conversation. 

The use of various social media platforms helped the organization to reach out to many and varied social media users. Some of the people reached did not have access to the multimedia materials or ZBC TV and relied on the social media updates in order for them to know the materials, topics covered and the points raised during the various discussions. It was interesting to note that feedback came from all over the country. Viewers stated that they were from Lupane, Hwange, Binga, Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare, Chegutu, Ruwa, and Chitungwiza among other places. Judging from the input it was easy to tell that viewers ranged from pupils, school leavers and parents/ guardians.

The talk show dealt with the following topics:

Delaying sexual debut

Teenage pregnancies

Child abuse 

Promoting dual protection and condom use

Per pressure

Intergenerational sex

Social media 

Culture and tradition

Family time 

Disclosure of HIV status

Service provision

Rights to service provision

Action IEHDC is indeed happy that it contributed immensely to breaking the ice and creating a platform for the discussion of issues often considered being taboo. In the production of the talk show, Action IEHDC partnered with Mai Jai Films, a local film producer, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBCTV) in recording, the Ministry of Health and Child Care and numerous non-governmental organisations. The show comprised 13 episodes where each was 30 minutes long. The show aired on Fridays from 1800 to 1830 hrs. from August to October 2014. Currently Action IEHDC is engaged in discussions with ZBCTV to rescreen the talk show.