Youth drama Shuga: Love, Sex, Money which talks about the dangers of irresponsible sexual behaviour has been transformed to fit a radio audience, and beneficiary countries will include Kenya, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania.
UNICEF, MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the PEPFAR Partnership for an HIV Free Generation came together to make the popular television show available to a massive listening audience of about 45 million people.
In 12 eight-minute episodes, Shuga Radio provides a raw and uncut view of the lives of a group of four young fictional characters aged 15-24. The series tells a story about their choices, dreams, friendships, challenges and triumphs in a world where HIV and AIDS are an ever-present threat.
Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest rates of infection in the world, and young people are particularly vulnerable, as the majority of young people living with HIV do not know their status.
Of the more than 2,500 new HIV infections in young people across the world every day, four out of 10 are in sub-Saharan Africa and the vast majority of these are young women and adolescent girls.
UNICEF Kenya Representative, Marcel Rudasingwa, said Shuga was an effective way to reach a key audience because it is a partnership, youth driven programme, that focuses on impact and behaviour change.
“Shuga resonates with young people because they can see themselves in some of the characters. It is very real,” he said, adding that the new radio format would ensure more reach for millions of youth who lack access to television.
The 12 episodes are followed by two 25-minute pre-recorded magazine shows which further explore the topics covered with young people, experts from the countries and global and national cooperating partners.
Available in English, French and Swahili, Shuga Radio will air three times per week for 12 weeks.
The Shuga Radio 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 driving the HIV epidemic.
The content and storyline for Shuga Radio were written and created with 30 young people from Cameroon, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho and South Africa 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 Shuga Radio are Sofia,19, her sweetheart Fally, 20, Sofia’s cousin Amina,17, smooth-talking risk-taker Karis, 20, and a successful business woman and ‘sugar mommy’ 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.
So far, 65 broadcasters have committed to airing the series.