​DMI’s creative teams have been working hard to craft our first set of long-format radio shows for our family planning randomised controlled trial (RCT). As of this week, all of our eight radio stations selected for the RCT are on air with the new programme. The long-format radio show, in combination with our short entertaining spots, aims to stimulate debate about some of the existing misconceptions and create awareness about the contraceptive options available in Burkina Faso.

​Initial pilots of our long-format programme were so popular that radio stations were unable to take all the incoming calls, and had to put in additional phone lines to respond to the demand. We saw a strong interest in the programme, particularly among men who are often difficult to engage through traditional community mobilization activities. This shows that there is a big appetite for talking about relationships and contraception in Burkina Faso – a predominantly rural country where over one-third of women (31%) have an unmet need for family planning.

To deliver the show, our team provided one week of technical training to over 50 presenters, actors, technicians and producers, and followed up with another week of hands-on capacity building at each of our eight partner radio stations. We worked with actors on telling our stories in an entertaining fashion, and supported presenters to ask thought-provoking questions to their listeners. We also trained producers in running the programme, and monitoring and reporting on their activities.

Although we do not give medical advice on air, we decided to also raise awareness about the basic contraceptive methods with our radio station teams, using a brief module shared with us by the dedicated team at Marie Stopes International.

What excites us most about the new show is the opportunity to stimulate a lively debate about family planning options in Burkina Faso. While our spots can raise awareness, the call-in show is our vehicle for addressing the existing myths and barriers in a more interactive way. Over the coming months we will try to seed new issues into the debates through a number of scripted, re-emerging characters calling into the show with particularly controversial views or stories and presenting them in an entertaining way to stimulate debate. We are now looking forward to seeing the first results of our efforts through our recently established innovative monitoring mechanism, which will give us monthly updates about our progress.