Entertainment, education and attitudes towards domestic violence

Abhijit Banerjee; Eliana La Ferrara; Victor Orozco

Over one third of women around the world are victims of physical or sexual violence (WHO, 2013). Many of them live in low income countries where individuals are often socialized to accept and tolerate gender based violence (GBV) and to remain silent about such experiences. GBV has serious consequences for women’s mental and physical well-being and significant resources are invested in policies to change attitudes and behaviors in a direction that is more respectful of women. In this paper we evaluate an innovative approach that uses entertainment television to reduce GBV. Entertainment education (“edutainment”) is a communication strategy that works through mass entertainment media with the aim of promoting a better context for behavior change than the delivery of information alone. We experimentally evaluate season 3 of the edutainment TV series MTV Shuga, produced by MTV Staying Alive Foundation and filmed in Nigeria. Shuga 3 consists of eight episodes of 22 minutes each. While the main focus of the series is HIV, a sub-plot involves a married couple with a violent husband.1 In what follows we focus on this theme and assess the impact of MTV Shuga on attitudes towards domestic violence. We find broadly positive effects. Moreover, the effect seems to be concentrated among people who recall the show and the narrative around the characters well, which is consistent with the idea of edutainment. We contribute to the non-experimental literature on the impact of commercial television on gender outcomes (e.g., Chong and La Ferrara, 2009; Jensen and Oster, 2009; La Ferrara, Chong and Duryea, 2012; Kearney and Levine, 2015) and to recent Experimental work that uses edutainment for public policy (e.g., Banerjee, Barnhardt and Duflo, 2015; Ravallion et al., 2015; Berg and Zia, 2017). We differ from the latter in focusing on changing norms towards GBV.