Audio postcard: Malawian broadcasters explore mental health through storytelling

In a recording studio a man reclines in his chair reading a script while wearing headphones.


I’m Sara Frizzell, an intern with Farm Radio in Malawi.

Last week I went down to Blantyre, the country’s commercial capital. I was meeting up with the producer of the radio drama component of the mental health program. This photo was taken as he’s busy recording a demo episode of the drama. He will present it for review at the design workshop next week.

Marvin Hanke is excited to be working for Farm Radio again after a stint in business management.

“I learned of the project as a board member. But then after our term of office, which was three years, the director of Farm Radio Trust felt that I might be the right person to produce this mini-drama because of my experience. It’s a lifetime experience. Actually, I started producing drama in 1981. This is the thing I love most. It went on very well. This is just a demo. This small sketch comes from a series. So, on its own it may not be complete, but since we know the story line, we know what this short sketch is telling us and where it is going to go from here. Briefly, what is happening in the story is that, culturally, we believe that madness comes from being bewitched. So, the story line is starting with a girl who is in love with a boy. The parents of the boy don’t like the girl. They try their best to separate them and this puts a lot of pressure on the guy and the guy goes mad, but the girl doesn’t drop the guy because he’s mad. She would like to help him, take him to hospital. And so the story continues. I’m told, most of the continuing story will be panel bidden by the listeners when they provide  feedback. One of the ideas was this guy isn’t really mad. Actually, we thought it might be interesting if he’s mad during the day and at night he secretly meets the girl. I don’t know how that would look like, but that is one of the ideas we’re bouncing around.”

In partnership with broadcasters, youth groups, schools and healthcare providers, Farm Radio International is working to apply the almighty radio to minimize the stigma that surrounds mental health, rally community support and increase understanding.

To learn more about the project featured in this audio postcard, Integrated Mental Health In Malawi, funded by Grand Challenges Canada, please visit the project page.

About the author
Sara Frizzell is a Farm Radio International intern based in Lilongwe, Malawi. She is a recent graduate of the Journalism program at Carleton University and is taking part in the Centre for Media and Transitional Societies (CMTS) internship program. Farm Radio is hosting five interns from this program in 2013.

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