Broadcasting from February 2015 to October 2016, Elembo is a 156-part serial radio drama that uses entertainment education to address issues such as adolescent reproductive health, child and maternal health, refugees, and deforestation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Elembo (meaning "Footprint") airs in Lingala, one of the four national languages of the DRC, in Kinshasa, Equateur province, and Orientale province. Produced by Population Media Center in collaboration with a local creative team, it is broadcast twice a week on eleven community radio stations.
The Elembo radio drama is designed to "change cultural norms and improve the understanding of available health resources by opening conversations about child health, reproductive and maternal health, children's education, and gender equality." The serial drama seeks to achieve this by weaving together a number of sub-plots to address different priority issues for the project. For example, one of the characters, Eyenga, is a 15-year old girl from an economically poor family. She meets the affluent 17-year-old Kolo in college, who draws her into the world of high-risk sex. This storyline addresses adolescent reproductive health. In another storyline to highlight maternal and child health, Sombo, a 30-year-old wife and vegetable farmer, is expecting a fifth child. The many children and her husband's laziness keep the family very poor, and the situation is not helped by her condescending and disrespectful mother-in-law. In both storylines, a friend's advice helps them out of their situation.
Another storyline features 20-year-old Nkosi, who begins to engage in poaching, logging, and illegal trading of natural resources. After many challenges and close calls, Nkosi is inspired by his friend Kaku to respect and advocate for the protection of the wildlife and flora in the Ngeze forest. A final storyline tackles the issue of refugees, centering on Pole, a 40-year-old trader living in the Camp Eleka refugee camp. Pole's wife was raped, and two of his five children were killed in the armed conflict. In the refugee camp, Pole lives in the same tent as his mother, who mistreats his eldest daughter and despises his wife. Pole, who is distraught by his mother's cruel behaviour but has no money and feels powerless in the situation, finally goes to his friend Toba for help.
According to PMC, their entertainment education approach is designed to engage audiences with authentic characters and culturally appropriate challenges and opportunities. Positive, negative, and transitional characters model behaviours and realistic consequences. Promoting interpersonal communication is considered key, so that listeners talk about the issues and ultimately make their own choices, "but all in a highly engaging, entertaining drama that never tells the audience what to do."
In order to inform and continuously monitor and evaluate the radio drama, research was conducted before development and will continue during and after the radio dramas airs. This research consists of listeners' focus groups, clinic monitoring, exit interviews, and quantitative research.
Listeners can engage with the radio drama through the Elembo Facebook page.
Reproductive Health, Child and Maternal Health, Refugees, and Natural Resource Management
According to PMC, "the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa and ranks second to last on the Human Development Index (186 out of 187 countries) and it's per capita income is among the lowest in the world (87.7 percent of the people live on less than US $1.25 per day). Contraceptives and modern health services are not widely used by the majority of the population."
The drama is also responding to the issue of refugees in the DRC. The United Nations estimates that there are some 2.3 million displaced persons and refugees in the country.
Funded by Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (Canada); DKT International; Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and US Embassy in the DRC.