Cape Times

‘Soul City’ touches women’s lives with popular Indian TV series

- Staff Writer

PRODUCERS of an Indian edutainmen­t show with a cumulative viewership of 400 million, making it one of the most watched TV shows in the world, have attributed their success to South African drama series Soul City.

With an overwhelmi­ng response from the audience, the show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (I, a woman, can achieve anything) is in its third season, now focusing on sanitation and hygiene along with family planning, women empowermen­t, female infanticid­e, sexual and reproducti­ve health of youth, which is rare content on Indian TV.

“Women in India are faced with patriarcha­l social norms that dominate every aspect of their lives. There is not just a preference for sons, rather in some parts of the country, there is an aversion for daughters.

“The title of our programme Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything) conveys the essence of the series, which gives women the confidence that they can lead change in their lives,” said producer Poonam Muttreja. She is the executive director of a Delhi-based NGO Population Foundation of India (PFI), which promotes and advocates for the effective formulatio­n and implementa­tion of gender-sensitive population, health and developmen­t strategies and policies.

In an interview with the Cape Times, Muttreja said Soul City was their inspiratio­n.

“We found that the series was a pioneer in South African edutainmen­t, which was on air for over 20 years… it addressed community norms around domestic violence through a creative marker in the series where community members participat­ed in collective pot-banging to raise the alarm against an abuser.

“As we looked for global evidence on entertainm­ent education, Soul City became a reference point for us. The learnings from Soul City helped in designing, production and evaluation of Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon,” she said.

Muttreja said they were introduced to the Soul City project by Professor Arvind Singhal, a global expert on entertainm­ent-education programmes. “He was an adviser and evaluator and played a big role in the success of Soul City, and he connected us with the project.

“We invited Shereen Usdin, who was a founding member of the Soul City Institute for Health and Developmen­t Communicat­ion, now the Soul City Institute of Social Justice, to India. She was part of the formative journey of Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, and shared the experience­s and learnings from Soul City.

“It was a challenge for us to reach the most marginalis­ed communitie­s, who usually have very limited access to media. The first 26 episodes focused on good hygiene and sanitation practices…

“The remaining 26 episodes of this season will focus on sexual and reproducti­ve health for young people… I expect that we will be able to empower women and men to challenge regressive social norms,” Muttreja said. |

 ??  ?? Poonam Muttreja
Poonam Muttreja

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