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Description of project

Implementing agencies
UNESCO Tashkent covered

6 years

Context/problem being addressed
The Silk-Road Radio Soap originally grew out of two projects, the radio component of the UNFPA IEC Project, implemented by UNESCO Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, and the Tajikistan Radio Health Education Project, co-ordinated by UNESCO Paris. In co-operation with the national radio stations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, a twice-weekly radio drama series is produced and transmitted in both Uzbek and Tajik languages.

As its name implies, the “Silk-Road Radio Soap” seeks to build on centuries’ old tradition of story-telling in the region, to focus on contemporary issues and priorities through the medium of radio soap opera.

  • Family and reproductive health
  • Agricultural themes
  • Contemporary national issues through the traditional medium of story-telling (storylines of the radio serial drama)

Within these three categories, storylines during 2001 focused on the following main issues:

Family and reproductive health:

1. Dangers of quickly-repeated pregnancies
2. Right of girls to further education, as opposed to early marriage
3. Coming to one’s own decision with regard to life partner, in consultation with parents
4. Marriage and education not being mutually exclusive
5. Danger and prevention of AIDS and STDs
6. Treatment of STDs at proper specialist clinics
7. Discussion on reproductive health and birth-spacing between men and women
8. Duties of men with regard to reproductive health of womenfolk
9. Family relations, particularly daughter-in-law/mother-in-law relations
10. Domestic violence, particularly violence against women
11. Pressure on women to produce sons, and preference for male-children
12. Preference for young brides: remarriage of widows
13. Contraceptive alternatives
14. Mother and child health (breastfeeding, time of introduction of weaning foods, anaemia and birth-spacing, ante-natal care)
15. Discouragement of superstitious and discriminatory attitudes towards girls
16. Duties of medical profession in serving the community

Agricultural issues:

1. Issues connected with acquiring of land from the co-operative (kolkhoz)
2. Rotation of crops
3. Making cultivation fit in with the market, as well as with quota requirements
4. Making agriculture profitable: relations with the market

Contemporary national issues:

1. Humane and considerate treatment of displaced and underprivileged groups in society
2. Ethnic harmony and tolerance in society
3. Rights of displaced people, particularly in the education sector
4. Lack of textbooks, and the responsibility of the well-off to assist the underprivileged in this and other regards
5. Free passage from one country to another as a stepping-stone to prosperity
6. Issues relating to demand and supply of narcotics (storylines showing dangers of consumption and trafficking of illicit drugs and the destructive effect on personal, social and family life)
7. The harmful effects of corruption on economic (preventing investment) and social (difficulty in accomplishing tasks in an acceptable, legal manner) life
8. Difficulties in private and public medical system
9. Difficulties of medical profession in making ends meet
10. Grassroots democracy and coming to decisions after mutual consultation
11. Rehabilitation of alcoholics
12. Local conflict resolution
13. Trafficking of women
14. Getting to the bottom of baseless rumours
15. “Innocent until proved guilty”
16. Dispensing local justice and legal rights
17. Pressure on children to earn a livelihood, as well as receive education.

New themes are constantly surfacing, in the light of ongoing needs assessment, consultation with stakeholders and audience research. These are incorporated in the radio drama storylines and scripts, through existing and developing characters and scenarios. In this way, the Silk-Road Radio Soap continues to be a medium for effective contemporary education, while also drawing attention to current, topical issues.


The area of project activity which UNESCO particularly supports is that concerned with the maintenance of oral traditions, and the revival of storytelling as an educational medium and a mode of bringing attention to current priorities and national issues.

The importance of addressing youth issues has also been reflected in a recent study conducted by UNESCO, as such a soap opera can deal with particular problems related to urban youth, for example AIDS and STDs, drug addiction, problems of communication between youth and parents, emotional problems arising from relationships and such-like, lack of employment and other economic, domestic, social, emotional and health-related problems.


  • Production of 200 episodes were completed, in both Uzbek and Tajik languages, by the end of November 2002.
  • 2002 has been a year of considerable development for the project, with the number of scenes in the radio drama increasing from three to four per episode. This change was effected from episode 97, and has meant that each episode, from being nine to ten minutes in duration, is at least twelve or thirteen minutes long, and has enabled deeper and more intense development of storylines around the agreed themes.
  • A comic-strip version of selected storylines from the radio dramas has begun publication in mass-circulation journals in both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
  • An intermittent listeners’ letters programme launched – in Uzbek – to reinforce the themes dealt with in the radio dramas.


  • Co-operation with and between national radio stations: Both radio stations have agreed to provide their studio and air-time free for the programmes, as their contribution to the project. Respective language versions of the radio dramas in are transmitted in tandem.
  • Cross-linguistic broadcasting of the radio dramas has begun, so Tajik-speakers in Uzbekistan, and Uzbek-speakers in Tajikistan can listen to the radio dramas in their own mother tongue.
  • Consultation with funders and stakeholders: Notes of storylines are regularly sent to funders, who are also invited to attend bi-monthly consultative meetings in Tashkent.
  • During 2001, an agreement was also concluded with UNFPA for support of the project in Tajikistan, committing UNFPA to a leading and pivotal role in project support in both countries. This is reflected in the allocation of major storylines to family health and women’s reproductive health, which is the department and domain of UNFPA.
  • The British Embassy in Tashkent has also been a bedrock of support for the project since its inception, first in Tajikistan and over the last two years in Uzbekistan also.
  • During 2001, the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-Operation (SDC) began supporting the project in Tajikistan, to facilitate the development of agricultural storylines of the radio dramas and the evaluation of listenership to the radio dramas.
  • UNESCO Paris has sustained support for the radio project. UNODCCP and UNHCR have also supported the project at various stages of its development and their priorities continue to be reflected in the radio drama storylines.
  • Selected storylines from Silk-Road Radio Soap opera dramas are to be published in book form, as well as in weekly installments as at present.
  • A Russian-language radio soap opera was launched in 2002, aimed at urban areas, in response to a feasibility-study during 2001.
  • Greater cohesion of the production schedule, to ensure that topical and newly emerging themes and topical priorities can be accommodated in the radio drama storylines, as well as addressing certain educational needs of the audience in such fields as reproductive health and agriculture.
  • A Silk-Road Radio Soap website is currently under development.
  • Training during the year 2002 was aimed at capacity-building within the project, covering three main areas of project activity and development:

-Training workshop for new Russian-language urban soap

-Refresher course for existing writers and editors, involving the project  co-ordinator as trainer and existing project staff, including those recruited for the urban soap.

-Technical workshop for producers and editors, providing them with skills necessary to operate new digital technology.

Project appraisal, monitoring and evaluation

2001 saw a comprehensive survey of listenership in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The survey also gleaned some baseline information on knowledge, attitudes and practices, of people who wereboth listeners of the radio dramas, and also non-listeners. This was followed up in 2002 with a survey into impact of the radio dramas, on the key topics covered in this baseline survey.

Considerable needs assessment has been conducted, under the auspices of the UNFPA IEC project, into the reproductive-health related storylines of the Silk-Road Radio Soap opera dramas. Other topics being dealt with in the radio dramas, notably prevention of supply and demand of illicit drugs and issues relating to agriculture, would also benefit from a needs assessment study of this nature.

For further details, please contact:

Dr. Komiljon Karimov
National Programme Officer
95, Amir Timur Street
Republic of Uzbekistan
Tel: (998 71) 133-80-10
Fax: (988 71) 132-13-82