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Tackling gender issues through popular MTV Shuga drama

By Kathi Hanifnia, Investment Associate and Madeleine Eastwood, Head of Communications  |   Posted 15th November 2021

GIF is pleased to announce a $675,000 grant to MTV Staying Alive Foundation to produce campaigns that aim to address gender-based violence and wider gender issues, as part of the TV series and multimedia campaign MTV Shuga.

Under the grant, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, a charity that produces the series, will seek to engage female-led African production houses to collaboratively produce the content.

The scripted drama MTV Shuga follows the lives of young people on the African continent and showcases educational storylines about sexual health, family planning, and living with HIV. With GIF’s grant, storylines that focus on violence against women and girls, and other gender issues, will be expanded on. The new campaigns will use various media and communication channels in addition to the MTV Shuga TV series to reach target populations, including a radio drama, social media campaigns, and a community outreach programme.

MTV Shuga campaigns have reached wide audiences across Kenya, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, India and beyond. This includes a weekly 20% national audience share from a single broadcast platform in South Africa; and more than 30 million views on YouTube. Studies to see how viewers were affected found that those who watched the show were twice as likely to get tested for HIV, and male viewers were 21% less likely to justify violence.

At the core of this innovation is the development of partnerships to advance local capacity to produce gender equitable media; and to ensure messaging is safe, effective, and relevant to target audiences. MTV Staying Alive Foundation will build on its track record of supporting local production organisations to strengthen their capacity and skills to generate media focused on behavioural change – this includes oversight from MTV Staying Alive Foundation, mentorship, workshops and internships to strengthen the skills and knowledge of staff, and organisational systems and processes of local media partners. In addition, the MTV Shuga campaigns will continue to be produced in partnership with local creative companies, local broadcasters, local government, helplines and healthcare providers.

Georgia Arnold, MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s Executive Director, said: “Since 2009, when the first MTV Shuga season was created, we have worked with a range of local media production companies and tested various gender-based storylines in our content. With this new grant, we will be able to create a more strategic approach to our partnership model, invest specifically in female-led companies and focus more overtly on gender-issues in our media. It will accelerate progress towards “gender-aware” media, both through the creation of the content itself and through the strengthening of local capacity. We are excited about the huge potential for the project, and really grateful to GIF for making it happen.”

GIF’s Rachna Nag Chowdhuri, Senior Director of Analytics, said: “Evidence shows us that edutainment like MTV Shuga can inspire behavioural change through information-provision, and nudging norm shifts through meaningful storylines. GIF is delighted to support MTV Staying Alive to build on their hugely successful track record of delivering positive messages via the MTV Shuga campaigns. Our partnership with MTV Staying Alive is a huge opportunity to reach young people, encourage dialogue on real issues, and engage female-led production houses, as part of GIF’s work to back innovations that increase the agency of women and girls.”

The grant comes from GIF’s Innovating for Gender Equality fund and GIF is excited to support an initiative that harnesses multi-channel media to encourage conversations centred around gender-based violence among young people, while at the same time supporting a pathway for gender-transformative, high-quality content production through MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s innovative talent building model.