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Radio Jockeys (RJs), Presenters and Musicians learn to integrate entertainment with HIV Awareness messages – at workshops in Chennai

© Internews/George Collinet/2005
Workshops provided initiative for young people to carry information and concepts in a style and language that would be acceptable to their peers, through radio and television.

by Scharada Bail   


August 2005: The celebratory mood at the Anna FM studio in Anna University, Chennai was an apt response to the end of a learning experience marked by great camaraderie. A group of students, radio and television professionals and musicians were winding up two weeks of hectic discussion and learning how to integrate entertainment with messages on HIV/AIDS awareness.

Two workshops for young radio jockeys (RJs) organized by UNICEF and Internews Europe, in partnership with Formedia and Deutsche Welle, were held in two different locations over a fortnight. The first workshop was held at the MOP Vaishnav College for Women in Chennai from 25th July to 31st July, while the second workshop was held at the EMRC, Anna University, Chennai, from 1st to 7th August. Students from the respective institutions and RJs and VJs from radio and TV channels such as All India Radio, Star Vijay, SS Music, and Jaya TV learnt ways to present messages about HIV/AIDS to their audience of young listeners.
“When we came to the workshop, we thought we knew everything about HIV/AIDS,” says Nanditha, lead singer of the band ‘No Idea’. “But the workshop was a real eye-opener in many ways. We learnt so much, and not just about HIV.The importance of informed and open discussion on HIV/AIDS among young people is vital because they are most vulnerable to infection. And yet, open discussion about the illness and issues relating to it are still considered a taboo in Indian society despite the efforts of many State agencies and NGOs to bring the subject out in the open. These workshops provided initiative for young people to carry information and concepts in a style and language that would be acceptable to their peers, through radio and television.

“When we came to the workshop, we thought we knew everything about HIV/AIDS,” says Nanditha, lead singer of the band ‘No Idea’ that won the award among competing bands from all over the country at the Great Indian Rock Festival 2005. “But the workshop was a real eye-opener in many ways. We learnt so much, and not just about HIV. First, we thought we would have to do a really sad song, you know, to talk about HIV. But after we had met the people living with HIV, particularly the women, we decided to say really positive things.” Several members of the band took part in the workshop, and the song ‘For a Better Life’ came out of this participation.

In fact, the quality and quantity of material created out of the workshop testifies to its successful design and sound approach. There were radio spots in the style of young people in conversation, spoofed bits of dialogue modified from well-known film personalities, dramatic ‘plays’ that told a story in under 45 seconds, and jingles that combined music and words to deliver a message.

© Internews/George Collinet/2005
Gotz Burki from Deutsche Welle training a group of participants at the workshop.

The workshop structure had been designed by the Technical Health Advisor, Internews. The participants received training from a Washington based consultant with over thirty-eight years of broadcasting experience who has done similar training in Africa, and a sound and technology expert from Deutsche Welle, Germany. In addition, there were site visits for participants to meet HIV affected children at a centre run by CHES (Community Health Education Society) and also visit YRG Care, a voluntary testing and counseling center. INP+, the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS and PWN+, the Positive Women’s Network sent members to interact with workshop participants and dispel many myths about HIV.

Aishwarya, a First Year Journalism student from MOP Vaishnav College, found her encounter with People Living with HIV/AIDS the most significant part of the workshop. “The visit to CHES, meeting the children, affected me a lot. For the first time, we were seeing such individuals up close, and seeing them as persons, not just figures. I met Aishwarya, who had the same name as mine, and wondered how her life would unfold, because of her being HIV positive.” An effective radio spot was created from this encounter.
Sneha, a student at the workshop, said that the workshop showed her “the world as it is, rather than as I wanted to see it”.Akshaya and Pratyusha, Second Year students from Electronic Media at MOP Vaishnav College valued the opportunity to meet professionals from the field of media. “We learnt technical aspects and professionalism that are important from the viewpoint of being media students,” they said. Another student, Sneha, said that the workshop showed her “the world as it is, rather than as I wanted to see it”, and radio jockey Harini from All India Radio learnt how to “integrate entertainment with the message.”  

The momentum of the workshop was maintained through steady interaction with different speakers that allowed participants to voice many of their concerns, and have the satisfaction of being heard and answered. Officers from UNICEF, interacted with participants on a regular basis. A different note was struck by Cyrus Broacha, a  celebrated VJ with a fan following across all age groups. Cyrus gave participants the perspective of a VJ involved with HIV education for youth.

In fact, the workshop operated on two levels – at one level, it equipped participants to stay abreast of their profession by learning techniques, skills, vocabulary and information. At another level, it opened up debate and discussion, freeing minds and helping people relate individually and collectively to issues around HIV/AIDS.

 

 

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