World Health Day 2008 saw the telecast of the first episode of UNICEF’s entertainment-education serial Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai. Since then the serial has made its mark as a unique communication effort that is inspiring viewers to change their attitudes towards some pertinent health and social issues.
“Frankly speaking I didn’t think much about health before. I didn’t think there was anything I could do. And then I found out that simple things like hand washing and keeping our surroundings clean can have a huge impact on the health of my family” says Anokhi Devi, a regular viewer of Kyunki… from Tiyalpur village in Uttar Pradesh.
Having already reached over 87 million viewers across India in 2009 and being the top ranked daily soap on India’s national public broadcaster, Doordarshan (the only channel that reaches every TV home in India), Kyunki… speaks directly to many underserved populations where medical care and facilities are minimal.
This is the place that Kyunki… has secured amongst its target audience: a source of information that provides them with simple solutions to deal with health matters. In its past year of telecast, the serial has delved into many essential health issues with a focused effort on changing the general attitudes that the target audience hold towards matters like maternal and newborn health, breastfeeding, immunization, and institutional delivery. Moreover, the serial points out through modeling that each individual can take care of the health and safety of their families just by changing a few aspects of their day to day living.
Given the low levels of awareness about health and nutrition amongst many underserved families, especially in India’s Hindi-speaking states, it was important to have a medium of communication that is accessible to all and would also be accepted as a credible source of information. World Health Day was an ideal day to kick-start UNICEF’s serial since the sentiments that run through both efforts were the same: to urge the world to pay attention to and act on health issues that would make the world a safer place for every individual.
The core messages in the serial, which are adapted from the UN book Facts for Life, revolve around health matters that affect most families including safe motherhood, child nutrition and development, water and sanitation and others. At the same time, more sensitive matters such as gender equality, social inclusion, education for all and the dangers of early marriage are taken up by Kyunki… to demonstrate the implications these issues have on overall wellbeing of an individual, a family and, in turn, the whole community.
“Very often women get the least amount of medical attention within a family, be it early marriage, birth spacing or care during pregnancy. It is very important that this situation is changed and a serial like Kyunki… definitely has the power to bring about immediate change of mindset amongst large communities”, says Dr. Lakshman Singh, Medical Officer in Charge in Machgawa village of Uttar Pradesh.
Considering social norms and general gender roles in India, many women, especially those residing in rural areas, often do not have a say in medical matters about their families and themselves. Given this reality, it was also important to reach out to husbands and mothers-in-laws of these women to convince them that proper medical care should be given to all, including the women in a household.
Having already reached over 87 million viewers across India in 2009 and being the top ranked daily soap on India’s national public broadcaster, Doordarshan (the only channel that reaches every TV home in India), Kyunki… speaks directly to many underserved populations where medical care and facilities are minimal. In such a situation, Kyunki… acts as counselor to its viewers, advising them on practices to take up and those to avoid at a domestic and community level.
“I like this serial because there is a lot that we have learnt from this about cleanliness, immunization, hand washing with soap, HIV/AIDS and the importance of educating the girl child. The serial talks about things that nobody else talks about but is very important to know these things” said one female viewer from Bihar during a session of monitoring activities.
Another viewer from Uttar Pradesh said that the serial is well-liked in his family because it shows the reality of their lives, be it the status of women or the lack of awareness about health and medical care.
Dhananjay Srivastava, a Training Coordinator with the polio eradication team at Aligarh says: “From my experience those who regularly watch the show have shared they have learned more from the serial about health matters than they have otherwise. Kyunki… is the way forward for those who understand that health is closely tied happiness”.
Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai airs every Monday to Wednesday from 20:30 hrs to 21:00 hrs on Doordarshan.