Soap Operas to End Child Trafficking in West Africa

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Soap Operas to End Child Trafficking in West Africa

United States
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Position in the Human Trafficking Mosaic of Solutions

Culture of Tolerance


Creating Value-Driven Communities

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Characters in the radio soap opera "Cesiri Tono" ('All the Rewards of Courage and Hard Work') serve as role models for audience members to initiate behavior change against child trafficking and exploitation. Written in Bambara, a local dialect in West Africa, the drama was developed and produced after intensive research on the cultural values and attitudes of the people and the official policies and laws of the countries. The research was integrated into the drama's characters and storylines to make it realistic and believable. This innovative approach builds capacity by using local scriptwriters, actors and producers. The drama is being broadcast via community radio stations throughout the countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast.


In Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Niger, where the average number of children per woman is 7, 6.2, 5.2, and 8, respectively, families find it hard to support so many children. Child trafficking often occurs because parents willingly hand over children to plantation owners for extra income, or children volunteer ?to seek their own fortune.? They are unaware of the working conditions, yet to many, knowledge about horrible labor conditions is no deterrent if there is the possibility of a better life. By showing the links between unplanned childbearing and poverty, "Cesiri Tono" addresses the root causes of child trafficking. The program's storylines show how smaller families increase the quality of life for everyone.

Tipping Point:

Using long-running serial dramas -- as opposed to documentaries, single-episode dramas, or public service announcements -- allows time for the audience to form bonds with the characters. It also allows characters to evolve in their thinking and behavior with regard to child trafficking at a gradual and believable pace in response to problems that have been illustrated in the story line. Accordingly, audience members will also modify their attitudes and behavior at a gradual pace; audience members learn vicariously through our programs. Our program creates emotional ties to audience members that influence values more powerfully than purely intellectual information provided in single-episode programs.


The project initially began in the three countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Initial project success allowed PMC to expand into Niger in April 2005. PMC hopes to continue to expand to other countries in West Africa, such as Togo, Benin and Senegal. Each new project consists of the following activities: intensive research on the cultures and policies, a training workshop on the methodology for local scriptwriters and producers, development and production of the soap opera, formation of focus groups to help monitor the acceptability of the program, continuous modification of storylines and characters to ensure relevancy to audience members, and evaluation research to measure the amount of behavior change among listeners.


The local scriptwriters and producers who have been trained to use PMC's methodology to create social content soap operas have the knowledge and experience to create additional entertaining soap operas regarding issues of human trafficking. The culture of communication regarding issues of trafficking and reproductive health will also have been formed out of the focus group discussions. Listeners will continue to talk to each other and to non-listeners about the anti-trafficking values covered in the program. Ideas of prevention regarding poverty and family planning will have taken root and will continue to grow among West African citizens.

Organization Size:

We have 5 staff members in our home office in Shelburne, VT. Our West African regional office in Bamako, Mali has a staff of 4.