What the programme involved: Using edutainment as its main approach to entertain and educate young people Femina 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 Ruka Juu), an interactive website (Chezasalama or ‘Play Safe’) which focuses on providing youth-friendly information on sexual and reproductive health, and an interactive SMS 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 ‘smart phone’ were just beginning in Tanzania and Femina began exploring how young people used these products and how they in turn 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), gage 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. Femina Hip is also exploring the use of SMS as a counselling system.
Why this approach? ‘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.
Results observed: 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.
Lessons learnt: 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.