Boyd Chibale - BBC Media Action Zambia outlines a Zambian strategy for helping to break the taboos around talking about sex. Please reply by email or click Read More below to ask questions about this initiative and/or add your perspective and knowledge on this important theme.
"Well, I am made of latex, and I come in lots of different brands, shapes and sizes. I am anything from small to extra-large, strawberry and banana flavoured," says Mr Condom, one of the stars of a brand new radio show in Zambia. "Sex is still sweet with me and you save yourself stress about STIs [sexually transmitted infections], HIV and unwanted pregnancies."
Mr Condom appears on Tikambe Natulande, a show broadcast on Radio Mkushi which aims to get young people talking about sex, STIs and how to prevent HIV/AIDS – a taboo subject in Zambia. (Tikambe and Natulande mean "Let's Talk" in Nyanja and Bemba languages respectively). Listen to another clip of Mr Condom on Soundcloud.
Mr Condom is only a small part of a much larger sexual and reproductive health programme in Zambia which BBC Media Action is running in partnership with the youth-led development organisation, Restless Development.
As well as the radio show, over the next three years we’ll be creating TV shows, broadcasting from live events and building a community on Facebook where young people can find out how they can stay healthy.
Let's talk about sex
Every week two community radio stations – Radio Mkushi in Central Province and Radio Kasama in Northern Province – and the state broadcaster Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) each make their own local version of Tikambe Natulande.
The shows are a result of intensive training we've run with the stations since May this year. Through practical sessions focusing on writing, recording, editing and interviewing, our trainers helped the stations to develop the programme's format. The stations' journalists and community journalists also learned how to cover sexual and reproductive health issues.
We've been careful to make sure the shows are not just made for young Zambians, but also made by young Zambians. The presenters and producers are all aged between 16 and 22 and know how to appeal to their peer group.
The resulting mix of music, entertainment and information all combine to make Tikambe Natulande one of the first radio shows in Zambia where young people can openly and freely talk about sex.
Breaking the taboo
For example, in a vox-pop [street interviewing] with people on the streets of Mkushi town, local people talked about the stigma attached to buying condoms. As one Mkushi girl says, "I have never bought [condoms] before but I think it would be embarrassing as a lady to buy them."
We're now starting to gather audience feedback on the first episodes which we'll use to improve the show. But if the experience of the programme's staff is anything to go by, Mr Condom is already having an effect.
Wisdom Lunkuntwe, one of the producers of Tikambe Natulande on Radio Mkushi told me, "The programme is opening my eyes. I am now able to walk into a hospital and collect free condoms."
Here's to hearing more from Mr Condom!