Using Edutainment To Reach Sexual Minority People
This paper, from Exchange on HIV/AIDS, Sexuality and Gender, Issue No. 4, shares the experience of producing two multidisciplinary communication projects that aim to raise awareness and discussion around lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, health, and HIV/AIDS.
Author: Tonya Graham
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
According to the document, hate crimes against sexual minority people are common in South Africa, and range from verbal assault to rape and even murder. Physical and sexual assault is of particular concern for young LGBT people living in townships - sprawling, often low-income suburbs - or rural areas where there is little or no support for them. At the same time, the report states that while South Africa has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, and although there are widespread campaigns, programmes, and organisations that work to raise awareness and reduce stigma, there are very few initiatives that are designed for the LGBT community. Lack of HIV/AIDS information, counseling, and services specifically focusing on sexual minorities, coupled with high levels of discrimination from health and social workers, make it extremely difficult for the community to adequately respond to the pandemic. According to this report, organisations working for and within the LGBT community are responding with "increasingly creative and innovative strategies."
Coming Out Again, initiated by GALA and implemented by Community Media for Development (CMFD), began as a participatory theatre production focusing on disclosure and stigma within the LGBT community, and has grown to include two comic books and a radio adaptation. The play used the actors' own stories and experiences of the pandemic to raise awareness and provide role models of young people who are living positively, regardless of their HIV status. The play also dealt with homosexuality, HIV, and disability via a hearing-impaired actor, and each performance was South African Sign Language (SASL)-interpreted for both deaf and hearing audiences. A facilitated post-performance discussion allowed audiences to ask questions and talk to the actors. After the play was completed, a radio adaptation was recorded in order to reach a wider audience. It was distributed to radio stations across the country in July 2006, along with several interviews with cast, crew, and audience members.
CMFD Productions also developed a pilot serial radio drama that dealt with LGBT rights, health, and well-being and aimed to provide positive role models as well as information to the LGBT community. Listening audiences learn about sexual health, dealing with discrimination, and supporting one another through the lives and experiences of the main characters. The drama is set in a semi-rural area, as formative research revealed that this community, being much more isolated than urban LGBT communities, receives very few, if any, positive messages, and very little support. According to the report, "Outside the Lines" used participatory techniques to ensure full participation from the LGBT community at every stage of production. The storyline for the pilot episode was developed using GALA's LGBT-focused comic book, and, as such, the two can be used as complementary materials for educational programmes or group discussions. Before stepping into the CMFD recording studio, the script was taken to several focus groups where the voice actors held staged readings and test audiences were asked for input. Focus group discussions revealed that there is a strong need for positive messages and role models.
The article states that initiatives like these operate in a climate where the media essentially ignores LGBT people, unless it is to ridicule or stereotype them. Feedback from both projects has shown that these initiatives are giving the community hope that the climate is changing. The author suggests that more communication projects like this are needed in order to encourage more people to come out, speak up, and help the LGBT community face their challenges and overcome them.
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