Crossroads series – women’s rights radio

Hilarious results and eye-opening perspectives happen when a corrupt policeman and woman market trader switch bodies in Crossroads, a 6-part radio drama series.

Hilarious results and eye-opening perspectives happen when a corrupt policeman and woman market trader switch bodies in Crossroads, a 6-part radio drama series tackling gender and rights, while popularising the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women.

First produced in English and Swahili for Kenyan audiences, Crossroads subsequently secured funding for adaption and production in French, Portuguese and isiZulu. Over 800 CD copies were distributed to radio stations and organisations across Africa.

From listeners

“The drama was very useful in helping us know our rights. It was not like going to
a class or workshop and being taught…we learnt a lot through entertainment. I couldn’t wait for the next episode every week.”

“I believe that the drama will be effective in teaching people about the issues in the Protocol. This is because it is humorous, and reflects an everyday life of the people taken to an absurd height that would make people sit back and think ‘Actually, is that what I would go through if I was to change to the opposite sex?’”

“[The drama] does not offer solutions per se but depicts real life situations. So, one can actually identify with the issues and learn from the lessons faced by the characters.”

Advocacy through drama

Crossroads was produced for FAHAMU (Networks for Social Justice), the African Women’s Development (FEMNET), and later People Opposing Women Abuse to support SOAWR Coalition efforts to popularise and push for ratification of the Maputo Protocol (Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa).

  • The drama set out to, and achieved:
  • increased awareness about the Maputo Protocol
  • prompting dialogue on relevant issues such as gender equality, the rights to peace, religion, and freedom from violence, access to political participation and education, and reproductive health and HIV.
  • building awareness and coverage capacity of radio media to the Protocol and related issues.

Crossroads proved to be an entertaining means to stimulate dialogue and analysis of women’s rights in communities, raise awareness of the Maputo Protocol and legal protections for women, and encourage local action.

Multi-lingual, multi-country production

Crossroads is an exciting six-episode serial radio drama featuring a market trader frustrated with the local police inspector who is more interested in lining his pockets than finding her missing daughter. When a magic drink causes the trader and police inspector to switch bodies, each has the opportunity to see how the other gender lives – with hilarious results and eye-opening perspectives.

Each edition of the series was recorded locally and adapted for regional context.

  • Crossroads and Njia Pacha, English and Swahili, recorded in Kenya for primarily Kenyan audiences.
  • Les Pistes Croisees, French, recorded in Senegal for Francophone West Africa
  • Caminhos Cruzados, Portuguese, recorded in Maputo for Lusophone Africa  
  •  Zaphamban’ izindlela, isiZulu and English, recorded and distributed in South Africa

Original theme music was also recorded locally and produced for each language edition. Talented musicians in Kenya, Senegal, Mozambique and South Africa can be heard in the lively tunes which add key entertainment value to the dramas and stand alone as a powerful call to action for people to work together for women’s rights.

Support materials, media training, and community activities enhanced reach and impact.

  • Presenters guide provides radio presenters and discussion groups with background information, discussion questions, local contact details, and potential ideas for to further explore the topics.
  • Promotion materials included promo trailer and poster.
  • Media training in Kenya and South Africa with participating radio stations built knowledge and skills around covering the Maputo Protocol and women’s rights.

The production of Crossroads involved over 200 creatives – actors, musicians, scriptwriters, translators, producers and studio engineers.

Community-based activities amplify the impact of radio, for example:

  • FEMNET hosted weekly listening and discussion groups in seven communities in Kenya and eleven in Togo.
  • POWA organised listening groups for broadcasts in South Africa, with four key target stations. Listening groups provide a space to talk about the existence and the significance of the Protocol, as well as give people an opportunity to discuss and share experiences and information.

Notes on the process

The Maputo Protocol is a critical agreement towards realising advances in women’s rights in Africa. The goal was to make the Maputo Protocol more widely known and engage communities in a way that was relevant and relatable. Carefully crafted messages intertwine with entertaining and compelling storylines. Each episode thematically links to an Article in the Protocol, specifically the rights to peace, freedom from violence, marriage and divorce, political participation, education and reproductive and sexual health.

Some brief notes on process:

  • Formative research: conducted to inform the storylines, identify key issues and information to be communicated throughout the drama, as well as shape characters. CMFD reviewed published documents, research reports, manuals, and websites, as well as read and listened to people’s experiences and stories.
  • Story & Scripting workshop: over 5 days, representatives from the contracting organisations (FEMNET and FAHAMU), CMFD staff, professional scriptwriters, and members of local drama and puppet groups came together to co-created storyline, sub-plots, detailed episode treatments, and review and refine draft scripts. By the end of Day 5, we had completed 6 very strong 20-minute scripts.
  • Voicing & Production: In each location, local actors (often involving drama troupes) voiced the drama. CMFD Productions edited and produced the voiced audio, bringing the scenes alive with complex sound effects and music highlights. All materials – promotional trailer, posters, discussion guide etc, were drafted, reviewed and designed to be user-friendly.  
  • Adaptation and translation: In producing subsequent languages, the adaptation process ensured that language and references were accurate and culturally relevant – meaning careful attention to localise names, words and phrases, proverbs and references. Translation was accompanied by review and focus groups, to make sure we got the details right.

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