The National Dialogue Media Campaigns were initiated by BRIDGE II to spark discussions across the country about specific topics relating to HIV and AIDS and sexuality among couples, families, communities and the nation at large. By stimulating dialogue between the sexes and within communities, BRIDGE II aimed to increase and improve understanding between men and women in relationships regarding what their partner values, and how couples can work together to improve and sustain their relationships. Increasing communication on these topics at the individual, family, community, and national level lessens the likelihood of couples participating in behaviors that would expose them and their partner to HIV. Qualitative research findings from Malawi indicate that lack of good and open communication in relationships, particularly around issues of sexuality, is a key reason men and women look outside the home for other partners, increasing their risk of contracting HIV and passing it on to their partners.
The plan for rolling out each National Dialogue was simple and bold: BRIDGE II engaged as many radio stations in Malawi as possible in incorporating these topics into one of their most popular programs each week during the National Dialogue. In any given week during the campaign, every radio station in the country was discussing the same issue, and inviting their regular listeners to contribute to the discussion by calling in, sending SMS messages, or writing letters.
The topics chosen for discussion during the National Dialogues were broad, but the questions developed to stimulate the discussions were crafted in such a way that people were able to link social and behavior issues to HIV (for example, gender-based violence and how it relates to HIV risk). The topics discussed during the campaigns were:
- Battle of the sexes: Understanding the opposite sex.
- What women and men want out of relationships.
- Couple communication on sex leading to more satisfying sex lives, better marriages and better relationships.
- Gender-based violence.
- Living as a couple and staying safe in the age of HIV and AIDS.
BRIDGE II, in partnership with SSDI-Communication and in collaboration with 13 radio stations held a third round of a national dialogue under the theme “Life Choices and Wellness”. The choice of this theme was very strategic as it highlighted the link between better life choices as advocated by the BRIDGE II Tasankha campaign and the treasure behind good health as emphasized by the SSDI-Communication’s Moyo Ndi Mpamba campaign. Topics covered in the “Life Choices and Wellness” National Dialogue included:
- Cultural practices and beliefs: what is more important to uphold, our culture or our lives?
- Living our lives: what matters more, is it out life or money and material things?
- The family and people's wellbeing: does the family do enough to give its members the best life?
- The community working together: communities as perpetrators of good life values.
- Disease treatment versus healthy living: taking responsibility for our own wellbeing and health.
During the lifetime of the BRIDGE II project:
- Three National Dialogue Media Campaigns were implemented, in collaboration with 13 radio stations between August of 2012 and October of 2014.
The participating stations included two national radio stations with nation-wide coverage and broad popularity (Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Zodiak Broadcasting Station) and 11 community radio stations.
The process of designing the National Dialogues brought all the radio stations together and forged collaboration in promoting normative behavior change through sharing of skills and knowledge in HIV radio program design. Radio stations eagerly participated based on the successful partnership established with BRIDGE II through the Chenicheni Nchiti? reality radio program; 11 out of the 13 stations provided free air time making the intervention very cost-effective.