The Mother of North Star FM uses unique drama format to address sensitive issues

December 02, 2018
A translation for this article is available in French

The only female broadcaster at North Star FM in Tamale, Ghana, is affectionately known as “Mama Rash.” Hers has become a household name in communities throughout the Northern Region.

Mama Rash hosts the morning show every Monday to Friday. She is confident and relaxed in the studio; laughing along with listeners during the call-in segment, effortlessly controlling the knobs and dials on the mixer board, and nodding to the beat as she builds playlists.

She has been a broadcaster for 17 years, and she started working at North Star FM in 2010. She is a beloved voice on air that reaches thousands of listeners in English, Dagbanli, and Hausa. In addition to the morning show, she hosts a program called “Women, Children and Mothers” and she is a producer of the agricultural program, “Farmers Time.” Both are broadcast in Dagbanli.

But perhaps her most popular—yet controversial—program airs every Thursday evening from 10 p.m to midnight. It’s called “Ti Bang Mi Taba Fua Fua Shee,” which loosely translates to “Knowing The Sensitivities of Your Partner.” It’s a show about sex, but she also discusses women’s health and addresses common myths and misconceptions.

“I wouldn’t call myself a gender advocate,” she laughs, “but I’m passionate about women’s issues.”

Labels aside, Mama Rash has reached many men and women with her program. But the feedback is not always positive. In a culture where the topic of sex is still a taboo, some listeners call into the program to complain about inappropriate content. Others have gone so far as to visit the station director asking that the program be taken off the air.

Mama Rash is unfazed. “I don’t have a problem. If I know I’m doing a good thing, and you criticize me, I don’t have a problem.”

The program features an in-studio discussion with local doctors, therapists, and religious leaders, as well as a phone-in segment. Mama Rash also incorporates a unique drama format called forum theatre.

Forum theatre involves audience participation. A group of actors will act out a scene, the drama director will stop it at a certain point and ask the audience for their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. The audience can also replace or add characters, present interventions, and create alternate solutions.

“You can’t do forum theatre without laughter and sharing of ideas,” Mama Rash says. “The more you share ideas the more you learn.”

Mama Rash has partnered with various NGOs using forum theatre to do campaigns on girl-child education, handwashing, and domestic violence awareness. Last year, she put out a radio announcement asking the general public to meet at a local hotel for a forum theatre production on menstruation and pregnancy. She hired an English-speaking doctor to participate in the skit, and Mama Rash translated into Dagbanli. She recorded the voices of participants and edited the material in-station to use in her program. The three-day event was entirely funded by Mama Rash. She says it was successful and reached many listeners.

“At first people were shy to talk,” she says. “But by being part of the drama, you have the ability to call yourself an actor. People will even call their friends to listen to the program and hear their voices.”

Walking to town after broadcasting the program, Mama Rash smiles and greets nearly every passer-by. She is recognizable beyond just her voice on air. One man told her he couldn’t wait for the next episode of “Ti Bang Mi Taba Fua Fua Shee.”

When asked if she was aware of the extent of her popularity, she shrugged and smiled.

“I’m just happy to see other people happy.”