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