On September 24, 2019, SHOPS Plus joined MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Viacom 18, and India’s National Health Mission to launch a new radio series designed to engage young people and provide them with relevant, accurate information on reproductive health and well-being. Titled MTV Nishedh Live, the series follows the lives of young people in India as they navigate their choices about safe sex, peer pressure, and stigma. Nishedh means taboo in Hindi. The drama series has 15 episodes and aims to educate as it entertains youth, airing on the top three FM radio stations in Raipur, Ranchi, and Delhi.
“Through USAID and MTV’s partnership, we hope to normalize discussions around safe sex and contraceptive use,” said Sangita Patel, Director of Health for USAID/India. “And youth are already having these discussions.”
Each episode is 30 minutes long and follows the narrative of a character who is tackling issues such as modern contraceptive use, stigma around LGBTQ issues, and myths surrounding safe contraception methods. Following the 10-minute long narrative, the radio hosts will continue with a 20-minute discussion encouraging listeners to call in to ask questions and share their thoughts.
Most behavior change campaigns and public health programs focus on older, married couples, yet formative research by SHOPS Plus in India, shows that young people, including married youth, often have limited access to accurate, confidential information and have many misperceptions about reproductive health and family planning. Findings from this research helped inform MTV Nishedh Live and ensure the program would effectively reach the growing population of sexually active youth in India.
“As public health professionals, we have not focused enough on youth and their reproductive health and gender equity in relationships,” said Komal Khanna, SHOPS Plus Chief of Party for India. “We’re delighted to support MTV Nishedh, which will help give young people the modern, accurate information they deserve.”
The MTV Nishedh Live campaign is part of a broader, integrated media campaign created by the SHOPS Plus project to increase knowledge of voluntary contraceptive use among young men and women. The project delivers key messages through mass media, digital media, workplace interventions, and interactive events. These messages are linked strategically to reinforce one another and create a “surround sound” effect to encourage healthy behaviors. Working in partnership, SHOPS Plus and MTV aim to address harmful social norms and educate youth on healthy behaviors and safer sexual practices through the entertaining medium of an interactive radio show.