Feature story

Award-winning youth drama Shuga: Love, Sex, Money to reach new audiences in radio format

28 June 2012

A version of this story was first published at www.unicef.org

Young audiences in six African countries will be able to share the experiences of a vivid cast of characters in a dramatic new radio show: Shuga: Love, Sex, Money. The programme hit the airwaves on 27 June in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania across 65 stations. 

During 12 eight-minute episodes, the show provides a view in the lives of a group of four fictional characters aged 15 to 24.  The series tells the story of their dreams, friendships, challenges and triumphs in a world with HIV.

Shuga Radio has been developed from the award-winning original TV version and is supported by UNICEF, MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the PEPFAR Partnership for an HIV Free Generation. They are working in collaboration with young people and representatives from government and partners in participating countries to reach an estimated listenership of 45 million in the region. 

The radio show’s storyline examines a similar range of themes to those in the TV drama including; HIV counselling and testing, condom use in stable relationships, positive prevention, gender inequality and sexual violence, transactional sex, alcohol abuse and the role of multiple concurrent partnerships in the HIV epidemic.

Exploring such issues is crucial, given the vulnerability of young people to HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, which has one of the highest rates of infection in the world. In addition, most youths living with the virus do not know their status. 

“Every day there are more than 2 500 new HIV infections in young people across the world, four out of 10 are in sub-Saharan Africa and the vast majority of these are young women and adolescent girls,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director.  “Shuga, an initiative that combines media with a partnership for service delivery, is an example of how to work with partners and young people to reach key audiences and maximize the return on investments for HIV prevention.”

Shuga is an example of how to work with partners and young people to reach key audiences and maximize the return on investments for HIV prevention

Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director

The 12 episodes will be followed by two 25-minute pre-recorded magazine shows which further examine the topics covered with young people, experts from the focused countries and global and national cooperating partners.

Content and storyline for Shuga Radio were written and created by 30 young people from the six countries in a special workshop hosted by Question Media Group with support from MTV and UNICEF.

Among the characters whose moving stories will be told in the show are Sofia,19; her sweetheart Fally, 20; her cousin Amina,17; smooth-talking risk-taker Karis, 20, and a successful business woman and ‘sugar mummy’ Riziki.

“We are delighted to expand the scope and impact of the Shuga TV series by moving the concept into the radio medium where it will reach millions of listeners on youth, student and community stations who may not have had access to the TV series,” said Georgia Arnold, Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

Available in English, French and Swahili, Shuga Radio will air three times a week for 12 weeks.

The partners behind the project hope that it will emulate the success of the first two series of Shuga broadcast on television in 2009 and 2012. The first reached viewers in more than 48 sub-Saharan African countries and in over 70 nations worldwide.

Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University/Centre for Communications Programmes in Kenya following the airing of Shuga (series I) reported a number of positive outcomes. These included increased intention to go for HIV testing and decreased intention to have multiple sex partners, improved attitudes towards people living with HIV and increased usage of accessible health and social services among youth who had watched the series.