Soap Operas and Social Change: UNICEF gets it
There has been considerable discussion with regard to the role of Cable television in influencing womens’s status in India. Not long ago a couple of economists from the NBER used panel data in India and found that introduction of Cable TV increases autonomy among women, reduced incidence of domestic violence, increased female school enrollment and reduced preferences for a male child [study PDF here]. Given that women-centric soaps constitute major chunk of TV viewership, some authors have directly attributed the changes in women’s status to the impact of popular soaps.
Its no surprise that UNICEF, in partnership with India’s national broadcaster Doordarshan is launching a prime-time TV series called Kyunki…Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai’ (‘Because…That’s What Life Is’) [via UNICEF]
Built around UNICEF’s global publication ‘Facts for Life’, the
series – which beings airing today – will touch on an array of issues
critical to India’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
‘Facts for Life’ aims to improve children’s lives by educating
parents and caregivers with information that they can act upon. The
tele-series will depict characters tackling real-life issues, while
providing valuable messages to the public. Its goal is not only to
entertain but also to educate, on subjects ranging from maternal
mortality and HIV prevention to girls’ education.
What differentiates this from prior efforts to use TV as a medium for creating awareness and influencing change is that UNICEF has taken a mainstream approach. Clearly documentaries and plain awareness films do not create enough viewership given the level of TV clutter in India today. However, with a gripping drama series, UNICEF expects the soap to be watched by 40 million women nationwide.
[Image (C) UNICEF India 2008]