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MTV Shuga


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MTV Shuga is a mass-media behaviour change programme to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people. Its primary focus was to raise awareness of HIV in Africa, but it also featured sub-themes like gender-based violence and sex education. MTV Shuga used a soap opera format to influence young people’s behaviour concerning sexual and reproductive health, violence prevention, interpersonal relationships and relationship power dynamics. 

Filmed in Nigeria and broadcasted in over 70 countries, MTV Shuga has produced five seasons. While the main focus was HIV, the third season (Shuga 3) included a subplot on intimate partner violence (IPV). Shuga 3 consisted of eight episodes with a run time of 22 minutes each with a storyline about a young married couple experiencing IPV.

The programme:

  • Developed an entertaining TV drama series to educate young people (18-25) about HIV and sexual health through realistic portrayals of characters and their experiences, with a subplot on IPV focused on young people’s struggles with love, relationships, and sexual health.
  • Reflected the audience by developing diverse characters, including young adults, teenagers, and parents, each with unique storylines. 
  • Created an active social media presence that encouraged viewers to engage with the show and share their stories and experiences.
  • Partnered with several NGOs and public health organisations to provide information, resources, and support for viewers who wanted to learn more about sexual health and HIV.

A randomised controlled trial, including the impact on IPV, was conducted for Shuga 3 in 80 urban and peri-urban locations in seven towns in South-West Nigeria. Participants aged 18-25 attended two screenings one week apart. At each screening, they watched four episodes of the season. After eight months, the study showed that male viewers were 21 per cent less likely to justify forced sex or wife beating, though there was no impact on female viewers’ attitudes. Viewers who reported they occasionally thought about either of the two major characters and those who remembered specific facts about them displayed significantly lower support for violence. 

MTV Shuga was implemented by MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Nigeria National Agency for the Control of AIDS. In addition, the campaign was supported by UNICEF, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, African governments, and the Elton John Foundation. MTV Shuga also produced versions of the show based in South Africa and Kenya. For more information, contact MTV Staying Alive Foundation. If you want to adapt the programme, we strongly recommend contacting them first.

  • Edutainment can be an effective strategy for behavioural change.
  • Localising campaigns and storytelling advocacy is essential to retain the audience’s attention. 
  • Compelling storylines and characters are essential to creating impact on violence. 
  • With a balance of education and entertainment, well-designed soap opera programming can address sensitive topics like relationship violence and SRHR, even in communities with high social stigma and patriarchal values.
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