Everyone loves a good story. In Haiti, radio and television soap opera dramas captivate the attention of huge numbers of followers, even when they are imported from somewhere else. One day, Rethinking Power’s staff was shocked at the low turnout of a usually-packed training, and asked what was going on. It turns out it was badly timed on the same day as the last episode in a popular soap opera drama.
In late 2012, Rethinking Power invited experts in theater and voice from the Ministry of Culture in Port au Prince, and began the adaptation of radio soap opera dramas scripts from SASA!, by Raising Voices in Uganda, casting 20 community activists in their first radio drama roles. Community activists who had been engaged for some years in the program talked about how vividly they experienced the dramas – getting to another level of emotional understanding of the issues of violence against women and girls and HIV/AIDS. The process of adaptation and recording, even before the radio drama’s release, sparked incredible debates about themes within the dramas among actors, the staff of the radio studio, and other groups recording at the studio. Passers-by often stopped to listen to training, rehearsal, and recording, asking when the radio drama was going to be launched so they could listen to how it turned out.
In one main theme in the dramas, Michèl is violent with his wife Sandra, and we see how friends, family and the whole community can either turn a blind eye to that violence, or provide support for change. In another theme, Sandra’s niece Margaret is desperate for school fees, and thinks she finds hope in David, an old friend of her father’s. His response to her changes the life of her family and community.
Margaret’s story seems to have particularly touched on the experience of many young women in Haiti. After the soap opera drama’s initial launch on Jacmel area community radio stations, the Rethinking Power network heard many reports of parents inviting their children to listen along with them and talk about what they had heard, and even a family with such a similar story to Margaret’s that it broke open some old, unspoken pain and they went to one of the community leaders in Rethinking Power’s network to share their story.
During the local launch of the dramas in Jacmel, one male listener was touched, saying “People say that Haitians can’t do anything good – but this is 100% Haitian, and it shows what good we can do when we really put our heads together.”
In addition to the soap opera drama content, there is a dramatized radio show following each episode where characters discuss what happened in the drama, bringing out themes of violence, power and HIV. It is Rethinking Power’s hope that this tool can be launched further into different networks in Haiti, and the community activist troupe of actors has already started asking for a new script to act in.
Listen to all 6 episodes using these links!