Effects of Entertainment-Education Radio Soap Opera on Family Planning Behavior in Tanzania

Nationally broadcast soap operas can be an effective awareness campaign to influence fertility-related behavior and increase the use of family planning measures.


Education through entertainment can be an effective awareness campaign for influencing fertility-related behavior, as it broadcasts public health information embedded in popular storylines. Previous research has demonstrated that mass communication interventions have a positive impact on family planning. However, much of the evidence is based on non-experimental studies, which inadequately address concerns about data collection, self-selection, and causation. To generate measureable evidence, the authors studied the effects of a national entertainment-education radio program broadcast in Tanzania called "Twende na Wakati," a phrase that means, "let's be modern.” The radio program focused on major themes identified in formative research including misperceptions regarding contraceptive use and HIV/AIDs, economic empowerment, and gender-based violence. The study looks at changes in family planning and HIV-preventative behavior as a result of exposure to the soap opera.


Entertainment-education programs are effective in encouraging family planning behavior.

  • The ideal marriage age for women increased by nearly 1 year in areas exposed to the radio soap opera, as opposed to 0.1 years in the control group.
  • The program had a positive impact on listeners’ perceptions of self-efficacy towards using family planning, as measured by each respondent’s belief in his or her ability to determine his or her family size. From 1993 to 1995, self-efficacy increased by 11 percentage points in the treatment area compared to six percentage points in the control area.
  • Approval of family planning methods increased by 3 percentage points in the areas with the radio soap opera, as compared to the control area, where approval of family planning methods decreased by 6 percentage points. The proportion of married women who practice family planning increased by 10 percentage points in the area that received the intervention, and decreased by 11 percentage points in the control area.

In short, this entertainment-education program improved family planning and listeners’ sense of self-efficacy in family size determination.


This study is based on a 30 minute entertainment-education radio soap opera broadcast twice weekly during prime time on Radio Tanzania. The program aired in the national language, Swahili, from 1993 to 1997. In the Dodoma region, the radio station broadcast local programming instead of the soap opera from 1993 to 1995 and thus the region served as the control group during this phase of the experiment. All other family planning broadcasts were identical across the treatment and control areas. The authors measured the effect of the first two years of the soap opera on family planning behavior.

Data was collected from 2,750 households in 35 randomly selected wards in the treatment and control areas. In addition, the authors relied on data from the Ministry of Health, Demographic and Health Surveys, listeners’ letters and script content.

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