Publication Date
January 30, 2002

Case Study 11: St. Lucia - Apwé Plezi (After Pleasure Comes the Pain)

Format: Radio soap opera

Dates: 1996 - 2000

Language: Creole and English

Subject/Messages: Family responsibility, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention

Target Audience: Adult St. Lucians

Philosophy: Bandura's social learning theory; Sabido's entertainment-education theory; modelling for behavior change through melodrama, featuring positive, negative and transitional role models to provide vicarious learning experiences for listeners.

The RARE Center for Tropical Conservation sought the assistance of Population Communications International (PCI) because it believed that unless population issues were addressed, St. Lucia could not conserve its environmental diversity. PCI's serial drama approach seemed the best option to help change behaviors around population issues. Thus a partnership was formed with RARE as the implementing organization, and PCI providing technical training.

The title Apwé Plezi comes from a local Creole saying, "After the pleasure comes the pain." The aim of the soap was to teach family responsibility and encourage family planning. Each episode was 15-minutes long and five episodes were produced per week.

The story centers around Chester, a 30-year-old alcoholic who is a wife-beater, date-rapist and incestuous - a thoroughly negative character. Chester is punished in various ways and listeners gradually realize that his lack of parental responsibility harms his children and their mothers, society and Chester himself. The advantages of stable parental relationships are demonstrated through the lives of more positive role models. HIV/AIDS was one of the most dramatic topics. One of the major storylines was around the life and reckless behavior of a typical young promiscuous male called Tony. His death shocked many listeners who had grown to love this character for his "macho" ways.

Implementer: The RARE Centre for Tropical Conservation, an international organization dedicated to the preservation of island diversity

Technical/Creative support: Population Communications International (PCI)

Broadcasters: Radio St. Lucia (free broadcasting and studio space)

Budget: No information available.

Funders: RARE Centre funded for two years, local funding for third year

Stakeholders: The RARE Center, St. Lucia Planned Parenthood Association, National Population Unit of the Ministry of Planning; St. Lucia Ministry of Health; PCI; Radio St. Lucia, National Research and Development Foundation and St. Lucia Development Bank

Management and Staffing: The project was managed by RARE, with technical assistance from PCI. The production team included three directors, one writer, one studio technician, and the Assistant Director of Conservation Education of RARE. All worked part-time on the drama. There were 50-70 actors over the three years. All the stakeholders signed up to the Values Grid, which was the guide for the entire program. The producers and scriptwriters were trained, through PCI, by Tom Kazungu (Top Com Productions) and Kimani Njogu (Twaweza Communications), from Kenya, who were pupils of Sabido. Otherwise, everyone was hired locally.

Writing and Production: The content and the themes were determined, in PCI style, by a Values Grid, which set out the content and the desired behavior/messages. The writer met weekly with the production team to review the Values Grid and to plot new episodes. When necessary, the writer would also meet with the Technical Advisory Committee, comprising representatives of the National Population Unit, the Planned Parenthood Association and the Ministries of Planning and Health. This committee was responsible for ensuring that the technical information was accurate and rang true, and that any current government concerns were appropriately addressed.

Formative Research: The formative research was designed by PCI's Peter Vaughan. A questionnaire survey was conducted by the St. Lucia Statistical Department and RARE staff conducted focus group meetings and a literature and legislation review. The research identified 37 educational issues to be addressed by the soap, including knowledge, attitudes and behaviour related to family planning, HIV prevention, gender equity, relationship fidelity and domestic violence.

Monitoring and Audience Feedback: No information available, apart from the hotline.

Supporting Activities: A telephone hotline for personal advice about family planning, HIV prevention and other educational content was set up in connection with Apwé Plezi. It was advertised at the end of each episode along with rhetorical questions on educational themes. The hotline received 1,200 calls in a 10-month period, representing about 1% of St. Lucia's adult population.

Other activities included a street theater production, which used Apwé Plezi characters and was viewed by about 1,500 people. Apwé Plezi stories were regularly published in the local press and posters, bumper stickers and billboards were used to advertise the radio program (Vaughan et. al. 2000).

Reach: 32% of the adult population, about 40,000 people

Impact: 14% of listeners said they adopted family planning methods as a result of listening to Apwé Plezi and a 5% increase occurred in the number of new family planning users, but the evaluation could not determine how much was uniquely due to Apwé Plezi.

Sustainability:Apwé Plezi was not sustained for a variety of reasons. The main problem was lack of staff in place at RARE to raise funds, and the inability of RARE to sustain support by itself. Radio St. Lucia could have found commercial sponsorship for the series - the commercial base and listener popularity were in place to attract local business interest - but, at the time, the radio station was going through management difficulties and could not pursue fundraising.

This case study demonstrates just what a large undertaking a radio soap is, and it is to RARE's credit that it sustained it as long as it did, with little outside support. Producing five episodes per week was very difficult. Part of its success, in addition to the hard work and long hours put in by the writer and other staff, was based on good collaboration with government and non-governmental organizations and the high penetration of radios among population. The small island community made liaison and contacts easier.

Contact: Alleyne Regis, Associate Director, Population and Environment Program, RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, St. Lucia.

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