This year's International Women's Day theme is "Choose To Challenge." It is a call-to-action for everyone to challenge gender inequities. At Population Media Center, we have been challenging social norms that rob women and girls of power and self-determination for more than 20 years.
Our formula for creating hit entertainment works across people, places, and media environments. Deeply rooted social norms like gender inequality, lack of education, child marriage, and female genital mutilation are all issues we push to change with storylines that spread across hundreds of episodes and, in some cases, several seasons.
Our planet's future depends largely on the investments made right now in women's rights – so challenge we must.
An estimated 220 million women worldwide want to use safe and effective family planning methods but cannot do so because they lack access to information and services or the support of their husbands and communities. In addition, there are damaging myths that turn women and their families away from family planning methods. These myths are challenged continuously in our content.
In our Burundi radio show, Agashi "Hey Look Again," we challenged reproductive health social norms and catalyzed real change.
• Listeners were 2 times more likely than non-listeners to say they know a place to obtain a method of family planning
• Listeners were 2.3 times more likely than non-listeners to report that their partner/spouse is open to the discussion of the problems of family planning
• Listeners were 1.8 times more likely than non-listeners to say that they generally approve of family planning for limiting the number of children
By providing the autonomy to access family planning and reproductive health, we challenge an entire system stacked to make women inferior to men.
Girls, in particular, are often denied the opportunity to attend school because their education is not considered as valuable as boys’. Contradictorily, research has shown that investing in girls' education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty and address other social and health challenges. This is because women who receive higher education are more likely to have fewer children, which is beneficial for both their individual health and financial well-being and the health of society as a whole. According to demographers, if every nation achieved 100% enrollment in primary and secondary schools, there would be an estimated 843 million fewer people on the planet by 2050.
Empowering women and girls, and challenging the archaic system of inequities, is imperative for us to move forward as a society. Frankly, we deserve better. Ensuring women have a voice in all matters would propel our ability to solve other crucial social and environmental challenges.
Our resources are not endless. Our planet cannot support continual population growth. Each person on earth deserves land, water, shelter, and food. As human populations grow, our demand for resources grows too. If women and girls' rights are realized — like education, access to reproductive freedom, and the right to choose when and whom to marry — the population outlook will change too. Improved rights of women and girls will ultimately improve the health and wellness of all of us.
At PMC, we choose to challenge today on International Women's Day and every day. Our vision is set: a sustainable planet with equal rights for all. With that charge, we will continue to use entertainment to challenge norms and promote social and cultural change.
Join our mission to engage audiences, challenge ideas, and create new possibilities for women and girls worldwide.