Using Community Theatre to Address Gender Violence in Kyrgyzstan
- 10 June 2011
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — In June 2010, southern Kyrgyzstan was ravaged by inter-ethnic clashes that devastated communities throughout the region. During the course of a few weeks, hundreds of houses were burnt, public facilities were destroyed, thousands were injured and more than 300,000 people were displaced – most of whom were children and women. Several cases of gender-based violence were reported, including allegations of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
A year after the conflict that devastated communities in southern Kyrgyzstan, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, continues to work with communities to strengthen community resilience to violence. UNFPA has intensified its violence-prevention efforts to address the root causes of gender-based violence, such as existing gender inequalities and the low status of women, among other socio-economic factors.
In May 2011, UNFPA brought together 15 leaders and activists of youth and women’s groups to learn how to use theatre to mobilize communities and enable discussions of gender-based violence, peace-building and other sensitive issues. During the course of three weeks, UNFPA organized a six-day training of trainers, five community workshops and three participatory performances which included one hundred and sixty people from different communities in the region. The workshops built on participants’ knowledge and experiences and the performances were highly interactive, with audience members invited to participate in the performance.
“Community-based theatre is quite different from conventional theatre” says Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn, the international expert who facilitated the workshop. “Community-based theatre aims to put theatre at the service of ordinary people who want to discuss sensitive community issues and identify bottom-up, grassroots solutions.”
A performance took place at a local university in the city of Osh, one of the cities most affected by the violence last year. More than fifty people, including widows participated in the performance. Many audience members joined the actors on stage to share their ideas and thoughts. “Others spoke from their seats - some of them quite passionately,” added Joffre-Eichhorn.
In recent years, UNFPA in Armenia has also successfully used theatre as means to convey important messages about social issues and encourage dialogue within communities. UNFPA will continue throughout the year to facilitate theatre performances on gender-based violence prevention, including domestic violence, within southern Kyrgyzstan.