Case study

Zambian soap stars spread the word on family planning

How UK aid is helping Zambian women transform their lives with and plan for the future through family planning services

Performance with a purpose in Zambia. Picture: Charlie Shoemaker/Marie Stopes International
Performance with a purpose in Zambia. Picture: Charlie Shoemaker/Marie Stopes International

UPDATE, June 2012

In the first 3 months of 2012, MSI provided 2,300 women with contraceptive implants, 5,300 women with contraceptive injections and distributed 30,000 condoms.

On 11 July 2012, the UK Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with UNFPA and other partners, hosted a groundbreaking Family Planning summit to provide an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries with lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020.


Yune, who lives in Zambia, was 20 years old when she got married and became pregnant. After the birth, she confided in a neighbour that she didn’t want to have another baby too close to the birth of her first child. Yune’s neighbour told her about a local Marie Stopes International (MSI) centre that she’d heard about which provides family planning services.  

On her first visit to the centre Yune was welcomed by Prudence who runs the clinic. She was counselled on a range of family planning methods and decided upon the injection. “I chose the injection because it lasts for 3 months,” says Yune. “You can’t forget to take it like you can with the pill.” 

Through UK aid to MSI, women like Yune are transforming their lives through family planning. With access to contraceptives she now has the choice to plan for the future: “It would be the end of the world if I didn’t have this service,” she says.

Choices for women: Thanks to UK aid, women like Yune can space their children which improves their health and the health of their babies. Picture: Charlie Shoemaker/Marie Stopes International
Choices for women: Thanks to UK aid, women like Yune can space their children which improves their health and the health of their babies. Picture: Charlie Shoemaker/Marie Stopes International

Drums reverberate through slums 

Yune was lucky to receive professional family planning advice. In many Zambian communities, widespread myths about contraceptives mean that many women like Yune don’t have the facts they need to make informed choices. 

To help increase awareness about family planning, UK aid is supporting MSI who are working in partnership with African Directions, a local youth-led charity, to find innovative ways of educating communities in Zambia.  

In Kalikiliki compound, a township in the capital of Zambia, drama, dance and music are being used to help educate communities about the benefits of family planning and where they can access services.

The arrival of actors, musicians, dancers and peer educators is announced by the onset of drumming, which can be heard reverberating through the slum.  

People crowd around the drummers as local celebrity Chilufya Mifumbi, a well known soap star, takes to the stage. Alongside other actors she performs a short play about a young women who becomes pregnant before she wants to. MSI peer educators mingle with the crowd as the drama unfolds. They speak to the audience about the performance and answer any questions they have about family planning.

“Here in Zambia, drama is the most effective way of communicating with people,” says Miyoba Sumaili, another soap star in the drama. “People don’t always accept what they hear in a one to one conversation but when they see a performance, they do. You play the drums, they come, you act. It’s easy for them to get information and ask questions straight away.”

The choice to decide

UK aid to MSI will provide 3.2 million methods of family planning. Giving girls and women the choice to decide whether, when and how many children to have improves their education and employment opportunities which helps to increase their status in society.  

This in turn helps to strengthen family savings and reduce poverty. It also gives their children a better chance in life - babies born less than 2 years after their sibling are twice as likely to die in their first year as those born after 3 years.   

And family planning shows how a little aid can go a long way. Contraception only costs an average of 74p per person a year, yet it can help couples lift themselves out of poverty by planning for the future.  

How UK aid is changing lives in Zambia

Back in Kalikiliki compound, children climb the trees to get a better look at the actors and women queue outside the local clinic to get advice. “Before we came there were a lot of unplanned pregnancies in the community,” says Miyoba. “But since we’ve been coming the numbers have reduced because they are using contraception.”

Women wait outside a family planning clinic. Picture: Charlie Shoemaker/Marie Stopes International
Women wait outside a family planning clinic. Picture: Charlie Shoemaker/Marie Stopes International

Over the next 4 years UK aid will work with a range of partners to help 200,000 additional couples to access modern methods of contraception in Zambia. We will also help create Zambia’s first large scale network of safe spaces for 10,000 adolescent girls through the Population Council. These safe spaces give girls a chance to build positive social networks, learn more about their health and talk about issues with girls their own age. 

Giving women and girls the choice to decide how many children they have through modern methods of family planning in Zambia is just one way UK aid is helping the world’s poorest people to change their lives.

Facts and stats

In Zambia, more than 40% of births are unplanned and 1 in 4 married women who would like to be able to use contraception do not have access to family planning. 

UK aid to Marie Stopes International will help 3,327 rural and urban slum areas across the world through reproductive health outreach teams. It will give 22.8 million couples protection from pregnancy for a whole year and provide 3.2 million methods of family planning.

Through this programme in Zambia alone, MSI will prevent 10,138 unplanned pregnancies.

Globally meeting the unmet need for family planning could avoid around a third of maternal deaths and a fifth of newborn deaths, and save an estimated $5.1 billion dollars.

Britain is committed to driving down the numbers of women who die every year in pregnancy or childbirth. By 2015, UK aid will save the lives of 50,000 pregnant women and 250,000 newborn babies.

Published 1 October 2011