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Tuesday, 16 February, 1999, 10:36 GMT
Archers star launches Rwanda soap
Felicity Finch
Felicity Finch and Timothy Bendick, who plays David Archer
The BBC radio soap The Archers has inspired a project aimed at improving women's lives in war-ravaged Rwanda.

Actress Felicity Finch, who plays farmer Ruth Archer, is in Rwanda's capital Kigali as the guest of honour at the launch of a new radio soap.

Urunana, which translates as Hand in Hand, is designed to provide health information to the public.

The drama's storylines are aimed predominantly at women and will focus on issues such as contraception, child care, wife-beating and Aids.

Vanessa Whitburn, editor of The Archers, said: "A well constructed soap opera commands a large and loyal audience. It's an ideal medium to present life-saving messages in an accessible and understandable way."

'You have to be subtle'

Rwanda has been ravaged by civil war
The programme has been developed by the UK charity Health Unlimited. Project officer Jo McKenzie said:

"The Archers is very much the granddaddy and the model of all this.

"Health information will be only 15% of the content of Urunana and the rest will be ordinary drama, because you have to be subtle about it.

"The main character will be a woman district health worker and the storylines will be introduced that way."

Radio 4's The Archers was first transmitted in 1951 and is one of one of the oldest soaps in the world. It was originally designed to promote good farming practice in Britain during the days of post-war rationing.

The programme still has an agricultural editor, and its writers and producers have helped export the educational concept to Kenya, Malaysia, Cambodia and Russia.

'Very privileged'

Finch, who has played the character of Ruth for 12 years, said she felt "very privileged" to be involved.

The actress has also been asked to put in a guest appearance on the radio soap.

"I have never been to Africa before and it will be a wonderful adventure.

"Radio is definitely the way to reach people in Rwanda. Tragically it was used for hate-mongering and propaganda during the massacre time, but this time it is going to be used in a good way," she said.

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