Community theatre youth initiative
Community theatre in rural Limpopo province has become a highly effective medium for communication and a creative platform for young people’s participation. Its raw adolescent energy, booming songs, powerful themes, improvisation and moral intent couched in the language of human and child rights have made it a popular and effective weapon in the fight against violence, abuse and HIV and AIDS.
Baagi People’s Arts, a founder member of Project Phakama, a national network of community based arts organisations, works with young people to creatively express their daily struggles through intensive participatory workshops resulting in dynamic dramatic performances, seamlessly fusing innovative form with relevant content. Project Phakama has been a UNICEF partner since 1998 in the prevention of the spread of HIV and AIDS among young people.
According to Project leader, Donald Legodi, a respected teacher in the Seshego community in Limpopo province, “The young participants, especially the younger children are encouraged to facilitate the workshop. The issues discussed are framed within the context of a culture of rights and concepts that are difficult to grasp first hand are unpacked using participatory learning methodologies.”
HIV and AIDS prevention and sexual abstinence is the overriding theme of the children’s performances. However, the cast members agree that some of their friends and peers are hard to convince. Despite this the group continues to work with young people in all seven regions of the province making strategic linkages with local schools and municipalities so that many young people can have meaningful access to this activity. Participants say that awareness about adolescent sexual health, child rights and general lifestyle issues have increased tremendously. In addition they say that parents also benefit from their participation in the group and are now more supportive and even willing to talk openly to young people about previously taboo subjects.
The projects popularity has grown to such an extent that the troupe is often invited by organisations, both locally and internationally, to showcase their work and to share their experience of community theatre as a truly effective strategy for maximising young peoples’ participation in learning, awareness raising and mobilising opportunities.
Listening to the voices of children