Street theatre as a weapon

English28. May 2014

A project which uses various theatrical formats to highlight the many challenges faced by women and children in Nepal is being extended and developed with support from Norway’s Kavli Trust.

Pursued by the Norwegian Amateur Theatre Association and READ Nepal, this venture aims to inform villagers and raise their consciousness about living conditions for women and girls.

The approach taken involves the locals and focuses attention on topics which are subject to powerful taboos, and which very few therefore dare to talk about openly.

Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries and 40.9 per cent of its roughly 27 million inhabitants are illiterate. More than 80 per cent of Nepalese live in the countryside and accordingly have very limited or no access to news.
Street theatre, “forum theatre” and puppet shows are effective ways of involving people, and the drama project helps to open new opportunities and approaches for daring to get to grips with issues.
Subjects tackled include trafficking, child marriage, violence against women, HIV/Aids, family planning and the importance of giving females a chance to secure an education.
Forum theatre – the theatre of the oppressed – is used in such a way that the performance halts when an issue has been presented. Audience members can then suggest resolutions, which the actors play out.
Women and girls, for example, are able to come up with anonymous suggestions about subjects they want the theatre group to present.
A performance in the village of Madi, to cite one case, was given after a number of girls had been sexually harassed by one of their teachers. They were thereby given advice on how to react, which resulted in the teacher being reported and his subsequent dismissal.
One of the bravest girls also joined the acting troupe, and explained that this had emboldened her to talk about what had happened and meant she no longer felt isolated by the experience.
“I’d never have dared to say anything about this before,” she said. “But I now feel that we’ll be stronger if we stand together and become more secure from knowing that we can actually fight back and be believed.”
Almost as many men as women attend the performances, each of which attracts an audience of around 300 people. That shows the subjects raised are relevant and important for the whole society.
And the fact that audiences can suggest resolutions to the issues presented means they also feel that they are contributing to changing society for the better.
The Kavli Trust backs important educational projects in poor countries. This support is intended to secure schooling for young girls and save them from child marriage or trafficking.
Established in 1962 by Knut Kavli, the trust owns Norway’s Kavli food group and is charged with distributing the group’s profits in line with its founder’s wishes.
The trust made grants totalling NOK 28.3 million to humanitarian causes, cultural activities and research work in 2013.