Community Theater Group urges viewers to reflect on the effects of violence against children
QUELIMANE, Mozambique, June 2012 – Sergio Silva, a public officer of the Casa da Cultura (House of Culture), teaches children theatre techniques in the city of Quelimane, Zambezia. Silva is the provincial coordinator of the Grupo de Teatro do Oprimido (GTO), a UNICEF partner that specializes in teatro do oprimido (theatre of the oppressed). Working with a group of six children, Silva teaches the children of the technique’s participatory approach to theatre, that invites members of the audience to participate, interpreting the roles of oppressors or oppressed around a specific issue. The aim of the shows is to address social norms and encourage individuals to experiment with positive behaviour change.
The children come from a variety of backgrounds and aspire to encourage social inclusion, and through their performances, promote a society where children can be safe. Silva’s students, Cintia, Orlanda, Ignacio, Mandela, Jesualdo and Nilde, presented a piece addressing psychological and physical violence against children on the occasion of African Children’s Day on 16 June. Silva has taught his students to invite the audience to reflect on the ramifications of violence against children and to bring audience members on stage to act out different scenarios and solutions. More than 400 children were expected to attend the performance at Casa da Cultura. Fifteen year old Cintia portrayed a girl who lost her parents and is then forced to do domestic work. “I want to send a message to all children that they do not have to accept to be harmed by their own aunts, uncles, mother or father-in laws,” she said.
Silva believes that teatro do oprimido is a powerful tool for addressing issues facing children and society and as provincial coordinator, hopes the program will expand and be more targeted. “GTO has been supported by UNICEF to implement this communication for development programme in many districts of Zambezia, but in 2012 we will concentrate our efforts in the four lowest-performing districts of Pebane, Milange, Maganja da Costa and Morrumbala. We will train school clubs in theater techniques and perform different pieces in the community to raise awareness on several issues related to health, education and child protection,” he said.
Silva’s students are keenly aware of the extent to which the issues in their shows affect children in Mozambique. Fourteen year old Orlanda describes the relevance of her character: “The character Maria suffers the same troubles of many real girls in Mozambique, who, after having lost their parents, are discriminated against by society and in some cases even by the members of their families. They are not allowed to go to school, play with friends and are forced to perform different and extensive labors that prejudice their capacity to grow with self-esteem. I want to be an actress and I know that I also have to interpret negative characters like this time, but I’m doing it because we have to tell children that they do not have to accept the conditions of Maria.”