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Impact Data - MTV Shuga, Season 3, Domestic Violence Subplot

Impact Data - MTV Shuga, Season 3, Domestic Violence Subplot

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Many of the women who are victims of physical or sexual violence live in low-income countries, where individuals are often socialised to accept and tolerate gender-based violence (GBV). In Nigeria, the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey showed that over 30.5% of married women have experienced at least one or more forms of physical, emotional, or sexual violence in their marriage.

Entertainment-education ("edutainment") is a communication strategy that works through mass entertainment media with the aim of creating a context for behaviour change than is arguably more effective than the delivery of information alone. In that vein, the television series MTV Shuga, produced by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and filmed in Nigeria, seeks to address the spread of HIV/AIDS by fusing sexual health messaging with engaging storylines. (See Related Summaries, below.)


A cluster randomised trial was conducted in 80 urban and semi-urban communities in 7 towns in South West Nigeria. Eighteen- to 25-year-old youth were invited to a series of entertainment screenings, which took place from September–December 2014. While the treatment group was exposed to MTV Shuga, the comparison group was exposed to a "placebo" television series that lacked educational messages. Hosting community screening events in both the treatment and comparison communities enabled researchers to attribute any impacts they found to the MTV Shuga program itself, rather than the community screening component of the activity.

The study collected baseline and 8-month follow-up surveys. The incidence of GBV was measured directly and indirectly through items list (respondents were read a list of statements and were asked to say not which ones are true but rather how many are true, with the sensitive item randomly added for half of the respondents). The follow-up survey collected information on what viewers remembered about the plot (by asking them about its main themes) and its characters (by showing them pictures about all key characters and asking them if there had been times when they remembered a specific character).


The study found no effects on GBV incidence when respondents were directly asked. However, treated men and women were a third less likely to report sexual violence (control=23.4%, treatment=15.8%). The reporting of physical violence declined by more than half among female viewers (control=21.9%, treatment=9.0%), with the effects for men being in the same direction but not statistically significant.


Eight months after the show, men were 6 percentage points less likely to justify forced sex or wife beating, a 21% decrease over the control group. There was a zero treatment effect on women.

Viewers who remembered facts that happened to the GBV characters were 7 to 9 percentage points less likely to justify violence. This finding - that effects were larger for audiences who reported thinking about the characters and remembering specific facts about them - highlights the importance of high-quality and engaging programming, according to the researchers. Identification with characters was not significantly correlated with attitudes towards GBV.

Contacts (user reference): 

Entertainment, Education, and Attitudes Toward Domestic Violence [PDF], by Abhijit Banerjee, Eliana La Ferrara, and Victor Orozco, AEA Papers and Proceedings 2019, 109: 133-37.; and Entertainment, Education, and Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: The Importance of Recalling Engaging Storylines and Characters [PDF] - both sourced from email from Victor Orozco-Olvera to The Communication Initiative on December 18 2019; and "Domestic Violence in Nigeria", Wikipedia - accessed on January 8 2020. Image credit: MTV

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HIV/AIDS Communication