Voice of Vietnam (VOV) radio drama series funded by Denmark and supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) aired the last of 104 episodes in July 2010. The purpose of the series was to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues and encourage change in behaviour and attitude towards HIV and gender equality.
It was the first-ever national radio soap series on HIV in Vietnam, re-vitalising radio drama in Vietnam and triggering nationwide-opinion exchange on HIV and gender issues to stimulate behaviour change. Beyond entertainment, the drama has raised listeners’ awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues and encouraged HIV- and gender equality-related attitude and behaviour change. Furthermore, the series dealt with improving the status of women, delaying the age of marriage and equally valuing male and female children.
The drama has also facilitated the communication between parents and their children. The interactive part broadcast right after the show in the “Behind the Stage” forum and on the programme website allowed listeners to find more information about the issues raised in the programs, post their comments and reactions to the programmes, learn more about the characters and download episodes. Making listeners feel part of the story and enabling interaction between listeners and producers is crucial to energise a radio drama and catalyse positive social change over time.
Nguyen Thi Huyen, a 21-year-old student in Hanoi, said the story is so interesting that she has not missed any broadcasts since it was first aired. “When I am busy, I try to wait till the episode is re-broadcasted. I often log on the programme forum online to share feelings with other listeners. The drama attracts listeners, because it encourages interactions between listeners and programmers.” Listener Nguyen Khac Manh from Hai Duong province, about 60km from Hanoi, said he often tunes in to the programme because it helps promote education in society. “I hope you will have more such education programmes to make our life better,” said Manh.
“The project is of great significance for population and development, and for HIV prevention in Viet Nam,” said Mr. Vu Van Hien, General Director of VOV.
Funded by Denmark and supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), with technical assistance from the US-based NGO Population Media Center (PMC), the drama was first aired in April 2008 and ended in March 2010. However, a growing popularity of the series extended the project until July 2010.
“The Desire of Life” caught the interest of 60.5% of the listeners, and 97.4% of them came to a better understanding of productive health and family planning. 89.5% of them wanted to join community in fighting domestic violence, 92.1% of them reached good knowledge of HIV, and 71% listeners wanted to continue listening to the drama series. After two years on the air with a total of 104-episode radio drama broadcasts, “The Desire of Life” has proven to be a big hit throughout Vietnam.
After each broadcast, VOV received an average of 200 letters, 20 SMS, 10 email messages and 50 phone calls from listeners most of whom were young people in and outside the country.