Entertainment, Education, and Attitudes Toward Domestic Violence

Exposure to edutainment that depicts domestic violence reduces support for gender-based violence in southwest Nigeria, particularly among male viewers. 


Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be a pressing global issue, with over one-third of women worldwide experiencing physical or sexual violence, according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization. Gender-based violence is especially prevalent in low-income countries where social environments tend to normalize GBV in communities and households.  

This study takes place in southwest Nigeria and investigates the societal impacts of MTV Shuga, an edutainment TV drama broadcast across all sub-Saharan countries. Edutainment, as a communication strategy, uses entertainment media to promote behavioral change more effectively than mere information delivery. Edutainment interventions often provide significant effects to those who vividly remember a show’s narrative. Given that, researchers explored how attitudes change around gender-based violence, including the role of memory and identification with characters. Amid this backdrop, this study evaluated the influence of the three-hour-long third season of MTV Shuga. Produced by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, the TV series primarily focuses on HIV but the third season introduced a sub-storyline about domestic violence featuring a married couple, Malaika and Nii, with Nii portraying a violent husband. A randomized controlled trial involving 80 screening centers in 7 towns in southwest Nigeria was set up, and young adults aged 18-25 were invited to community screenings. Follow-up surveys (n=4,986) were conducted eight months later to measure any shifts in attitudes toward GBV. 

Of note, this study and three other Edutainment RCTs (including Arias, 2019 and Green et al., 2020) were featured in the 2022 HFPA-World Bank Global Forum: Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls Through Edutainment


Watching the MTV Shuga series had the intended impacts on men’s attitudes towards GBV.  

  • The effect of the intervention is measurable but insignificant across the full sample of men and women, but notable differences were observed between genders:
    • Women in the treatment group did not change their attitudes toward GBV.
    • Men’s attitudes in the treatment group showed a significant change effect at the 5% level, indicating less support for GBV.
  • Participants who watched the MTV Shuga series were approximately 76% as likely as the control group to justify violence.
  • Men in the treatment group were 6 percentage points less likely to justify forced sex or wife-beating, a 21% decrease compared to the control group’s average.
  • Eight months post-viewing, there was not a significant change in attitudes for viewers who recognized domestic violence as a primary theme in MTV Shuga. However, viewers who occasionally thought about or remembered specific facts related to the characters showed significantly reduced support for domestic violence at the 1% level.
    • Overall, viewers with strong recollection of the show had an 8-10% lower likelihood of justifying GBV.
    • Women who remembered what happened to Malaika (the wife in the abusive marriage with Nii), justified violence in about 75% of cases, compared to those who did not recall her.
    • For men who remembered what happened to Nii, the figure stood at 59%.
  • While identification with characters was not a significant factor for changing most viewers’ attitudes towards GBV, men who identified with Nii (measured by affirmatively answering that they “saw themselves as” him) were less perturbed by domestic violence.  

The study conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of MTV Shuga. It set up 80 screening centers in urban and peri-urban locations of 7 towns in southwest Nigeria. Individuals aged between 18 to 25 living within a 10-minute walk from screening centers were randomly invited for an initial movie screening. From these attendees, 63 participants per center, equally split between men and women, were selected to attend two subsequent screenings. These centers were then randomly divided into: 1) 54 screened MTV Shuga (treatment group), and 2) 26 showed a “placebo” TV series (control group). Both groups viewed four episodes during each of these two sessions, spaced one week apart.

To measure the impact, follow-up surveys were administered eight months after the baseline screenings, probing participants on their attitude towards GBV through specific questions: a) if a husband is justified in forcing his wife to have sex when she does not want to; b) if a man is justified in hitting or beating his wife if she (i) goes out without telling him, (ii) neglects the children, (iii) argues with him, (iv) refuses to have sex, (v) burns the food, (vi) fails to prepare food on time, and (vii) refuses to have another child. The study established an indicator to understand the degree of justification participants held for violent actions in different scenarios.  

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