Siri ya Mtungi
Siri ya Mtungi (Secrets of the Gourd) (SyM) is a weekly dramatic Swahili television show. The show uses a research-informed behavior change communication approach to address family planning and HIV-prevention, primarily through reducing multiple concurrent partners, advocacy of HIV testing, and destigmatization of condom use.
There are currently two 13-episode seasons of SyM. Season 1 was written to establish realistic characters in transitional periods of their lives. This includes Nsura, an HIV positive pregnant woman, Cheche, a young man with multiple sexual partners, and Cheusi, a mother of three in need of family planning. Season 2 was formulated as the “pay-off” season, where characters are able to achieve their behavior change objectives. For example, Nsura learns to live positively with HIV and delivers an HIV negative child, while Cheusi successfully discusses family-planning with her husband, and together they choose a method that is right for her, and Cheche came to understand and appreciate the risks of multiple sexual partners, causing him to get tested and decide to be monogamous with his wife.
Along with a robust social media presence, SyM is also dedicated to building local production capacity. The production process exemplified this from design through production and airing of the program. All cast members were Tanzanian, and apart from 5 international crew members (of which 3 were Kenyan), all were Tanzanian nationals and residents. One cycle of production was directed by Karabani, a young Tanzanian filmmaker. Additionally, a master class in cinematography was organized for the local film industry, which was led by a visiting Director of Photography (Ron Garcia ASC) from Hollywood.