Background: Tanzania currently has an HIV prevalence rate of 4.7% with around 1.4 million Tanzanian currently living with HIV (UNAIDS, 2015). The HIV epidemic shows strong regional variation. Regions with the highest HIV prevalence are Mbeya at 14%, Iringa at 13% and Dar es Salaam at 11%.
Founded in 1999, Femina Hip is a multimedia platform and a civil society initiative working with youth, communities and strategic partners across Tanzania. The aim is to promote healthy lifestyles, sexual health, HIV and AIDS prevention, gender equality, citizen engagement and more recently includes coverage of income generation and employment issues through edutainment, connecting young people and giving them a platform to speak up and share experiences. The project has received financial support from a number of partners, including SIDA and USAID/PEPFAR.
Target Population: Adolescents and Young People, Male and Female, Rural and Urban, 15-25 years of age.
Technology: Femina Hip utilizes Telerivet SMS systems for their feedback program with youth. Telerivet enables users to create, launch and manage SMS services or interfaces that run on any mobile network. Click here for more technical information.
Technology Use: Using edutainment as its main approach to entertain and educate young people, Femina has produced and developed a wide range of media products, which include two magazines (English and Swahili language ‘Fema’ and ‘Si Mchezo!’ ) aimed at 15 – 25 year olds; two TV products (Fema TV Talk Show and RukaJuu), an interactive website (Chezasalama or ‘Play Safe’) which focuses on providing youth-friendly information on sexual and reproductive health, an interactive SMS platform as well as an interactive voice response (IVR) platform. All are supported by community mobilization and interpersonal contact through Fema Youth Clubs.
In 2010, the use of social media and the era of accessing the Internet via phone, and indeed the ‘smartphone’ were just beginning in Tanzania and Femina began exploring how young people used these products and how they, in turn, they could use them – particularly Facebook – to reach out to young people. In 2010, Femina Hip opened its first Facebook account (and later a Twitter account) and invited young people in Fema Clubs to become ‘friends’ and ‘like’ the page. It later encouraged Fema Clubs to develop their own online spaces.
Femina Hip recently updated their SMS system and there is now a strong SMS feedback system that allows young people to communicate with Femina directly. Outgoing messages are used inform audiences about new issues of TV shows and magazine editions. Incoming SMS messages help generate content (in the form of audience questions), gauge the level of understanding and knowledge of audiences, and allow an easy and affordable communication platform. It also encourages young people to learn, understand and use technology more – all of which are useful skills that Femina would like to encourage and expand to include more rural young people, especially girls.
In order to reinforce their message via SMS, Femina Hip uses a cloud and mobile application based service called Telerivet for several different activities (Telerivet, 2015):
1) Providing advice via an SMS hotline: Femina Hip created an SMS counselling hotline after realizing that many Tanzanian youth were more comfortable accessing an anonymous, confidential helpline rather than seeking face-to-face counselling or visiting clinics. With this SMS hotline, youth can send in their questions relating to sexual and reproductive health, economic empowerment, and citizen engagement. A member of Femina’s outreach team receives the question via Telerivet, and sends a personalized response. In each issue of Fema Magazine, Femina’s team publishes some of the SMS questions in the column “Mpendwa Anti” (Dear Auntie).
2) Monitoring magazine distribution via SMS: Femina Hip’s primary media product, Fema Magazine, is distributed to over 2,500 secondary schools in all over Tanzania. Previously, it was a challenge for Femina to verify that distributors actually delivered the magazine to the target groups. In order to ensure that magazines are being delivered on time, Femina asks teachers to send an SMS when they receive each issue and this data is made available in real-time.
3) Pushing out information to communities: Femina Hip uses SMS to periodically send out information to their target population, especially to inform them about new upcoming media products, such as new seasons of their television and radio shows.
4) Live audience interaction: Femina Hip’s television and radio shows now have a live audience interaction component to them that is run through an SMS system. During each episode a “question of the week” is asked, and audience members are asked to send an SMS answer. Responses are read by Femina Hip staff on the air, and each week a winner is chosen and receives a prize. This is done to incentivize active viewership and listenership.
5) Simple SMS registration: Femina Hip has a large network of over 700 “Fema” Clubs in secondary schools throughout Tanzania, with more clubs forming every year. In the past, new clubs registered with Femina Hip through letter or email, both of which are problematic in rural areas. Now, an automated survey allows club teachers to register their club via SMS. Since this service’s inception late in 2014, it has facilitated the registration of over 200 clubs.
Challenges and Lessons Learned: Femina’s work is evaluated through a Results-Based Management system. In terms of Femina’s social media output, it was found that the audience is mostly urban and mostly male and mostly interested in sexual and reproductive health questions and content. When TV and radio programming is live and on-air, Femina sees a surge in SMS responses from young people.
However, through social media engagement Femina has seen an increase in audience participation and engagement with their core topics. They have reached more young people with relevant information, especially with sexual and reproductive health information, and they have expanded the use of technology in rural areas. Overall Femina’s media and social media products are estimated to reach an audience of around 11 million per year.
Social media spaces are public platforms, and often in the public domain. Young audiences might not be fully aware of this and some of the consequences of posting in public spaces, so it’s important awareness is raised, particularly in relation to the content of certain subjects that Femina Hip encourages debate on. A social media policy can provide a useful guideline for staff on how to participate in online spaces. Access to phone and internet technologies are still limited in Tanzania and this can make young women especially vulnerable; being offered the use of a phone and credit by men in exchange for sexual favours. This makes outreach and face-to-face training an important component of Femina’s programme.
‘Entertainment education’ – including portraying the realities of everyday life for young people, magazine and TV features that featured and included young people, published messages and letters from young people etc. – encouraged and enabled young people to easily get on board and actively participate in discussions about issues that resonated with them.
This case study has been compiled using online Femina Hip sources as well as original input from C4D Network member Lynn ORourke:
- Femina Hip website: www.feminahip.or.tz
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/FeminaHIP1999/