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Rwandan sex soap opera wins award

Urunana actors performing in front of a crowd
Urunana has a cult following in the Great Lakes with about 10m listeners

A Rwandan radio soap opera that takes on controversial issues about sexual health has won a prestigious One World Media Award at a ceremony in the UK.

Urunana follows life in the fictional village of Nyarurembo and each week has an estimate audience of 10 million.

Narcisse Kalisa, Urunana's director, says the show is not afraid of taking on taboos by making people laugh.

"Our most controversial story was when a wife asked her [cheating] husband to use a condom," he told the BBC.

"People can laugh at the way the issues are addressed and the language we are using. It's an entertainment - a blend of education and entertainment," he says.

Tenterhooks

The show's writer Samuel Kyambagidwa says the main characters are Bushombe, a comic figure who has recently gone back to school at the age of 50, and Mariyana, a respected health worker.

It gives a grandparent courage to discuss things with their grandchild that they have heard on Urunana
Writer Samuel Kyambagidwa

Urunana, which means hand in hand in Kinyarwandan, won the One World Special Achievement Award for Development Media on Thursday night in London and takes on subjects from HIV/Aids to infertility.

"Before the programme it was taboo to talk about sexuality - and things like wet dreams and menstruation," Mr Kyambagidwa told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"Now it gives people a starting point; for example, it gives a grandparent courage to discuss things with their grandchild that they have heard on Urunana," he says.

Figures from the World Bank last year put the prevalence of Aids in Rwanda at about 3%, down from 11% in 2000.

The World Bank report suggested that education at a grassroots level played an important role in slowing down the spread of Aids in the country.

The soap, which was started in 1999 by UK charity Health Unlimited, is broadcast twice a week in 15-minute episodes on the BBC's Great Lakes Service.

The current storyline is about a student who drops out of secondary school to marry a shop owner, but then discovers she is HIV positive.

Mr Kalisa says the audience has been kept on tenterhooks about whether the wedding would go ahead.

For those not tuning in...

"He did marry her at the end of the day," Mr Kalisa says.




SEE ALSO
Country profile: Rwanda
29 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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