Innovative projects for refugees, former child soldiers, and host communities in northern Uganda
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Dec 2013 11

Community Theater: finding solutions to Gender Based Violence in northern Uganda

Posted in News

By Arianna Watson

Imagine a theater scene showing a happily married couple walking hand in hand with their two young children on a warm and peaceful October day in a small village of northern Uganda.  Curtains close. When it opens again the husband has become lazy, dodging his work on the farm and is using all the family’s savings to buy beer in the local bar.  The wife despairs, the situation has been going on for far too long. He beats her and chases her away from the home when she tries to talk to him about his drinking problem. Curtains close. The audiences are stunned and silent.

Next scene. The wife gets help from her brother. He acts as a mediator and talks to the husband. He takes him to the elders and the LC-1 (local councillor) who sit down with the couple and the brother to bring all viewpoints to the table. The police is also involved, a few hours in jail may help get the husband’s mind straight. Next. We see him on his knees, asking for forgiveness he acknowledges his faults and promises to stop drinking to help his family back on track.

The grand finale shows the two farming together happily, making money to pay for the children’s school fees. The joyful image turns into a scene of dance and laughter. The actors and the audiences join the stage for the celebrations.

The theater is shown to the entire village – more than two hundred people have gathered in front of the stage — children, men, women and elders, as well as local councillors, cultural leaders and parish chiefs. Everyone is here and following every movement on the stage. The responses from the audiences are fantastic. One compliments the groups’ efforts, “it’s so important to bring these issues out for discussion”. Another one explains,

“showing the causes and solutions to domestic violence helps everyone in the community to recognise how bad it really is and helps the affected women to see that they are not alone with their problems.”

A lesson from the field

The community theater project has clearly shown that community sensitisation through drama is an extremely strong tool for advocacy and that it allows local people to find their own solutions to the problems that they face. Mediation and mutual help within the village are used to solve conflicts; the groups now feel much better equipped to handle gender based violence and other forms of conflict.

Congratulations to the actors and the audiences

Community theater is one of GRG’s reconciliation projects, developed and implemented together with Justice and Reconciliation Project. Community theater is a process of sharing and finding solutions. Acting and discussing complex problems to foster community owned reconciliation methods. The performances arise from an extended process in which group members share stories about the major issues they face in the community, they then analyse the stories to understand the underlying reasons behind the issues, and finally create a theater performance incorporating issues and solutions learned from each other. During the performance itself, there is also a space for communal discussion, where the audience is involved and asked for opinions about different solutions to the issues acted on stage. The entire community theater process is aimed at promoting reconciliation within the group, and between the group and the wider community.

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