Rooting brands in local culture helps us make sure our brands are accepted and embraced, and they accurately reflect stories young people in Malawi can recognise and relate to. We give young people a voice and stake in the development of our brands, and Zathu was co-created boys and girls throughout the country, conducting focus groups, in-depth-interviews, creative exercises, and product testing. We also worked closely with youth groups, teachers, parents, and religious and community leaders to ensure these figures would be supportive of our approach and champion the Zathu brand.
Zathu’s activity and content is built around our thinking on social norm and behaviour change. Radio drama episodes deal with themes linked to specific behaviour change goals, such as positioning girls and boys as equal, encouraging girls to speak out, improving safety, equipping girls and boys to practice positive sexual and reproductive health behaviour and destigmatising HIV.
Creating behaviour change occurs in four stages. Firstly we need to create awareness, provide knowledge and change attitudes. It’s only a year since the brand launched and already, Zathu, is proving to be extremely effective at all three, with such a vast reach across Malawi and strong evidence to show views are shifting. For example, 86 per cent of people who listen to Zathu agree that the brand has taught them females should be treated equally to males and 91 per cent say it’s made them feel more in control of the issues that affect their lives. A survey of Zathu listeners found 93 per cent of girls and 89 per cent of boys said the brand has helped them improve their friendships with the opposite sex.
When it comes to addressing HIV specifically Zathu looks at dispelling some of the myths around HIV and transmission, such as the belief that having sex with a virgin girl cures a man of HIV/AIDS and that boys who have been circumcised cannot contract HIV. Storylines also explore sexual and reproductive health and are consistent in messaging around showing the value in caring for your health and the health of those around you.
But tackling HIV is not a standalone issue, and Zathu continues to address the wider issues such as gender inequality, safety, education and economic empowerment of girls and women. Raising awareness and changing attitudes is just the first step. As the brand matures content will look to help girls and boys build confidence and skills, change perceptions of norms and ultimately reinforce new empowered behaviours and choices.