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Zambia, 29 June 2015: Barefeet Theatre vows to always incorporate hygiene and sanitation messaging

© UNICEF Zambia/2015/Manchikanti
Barefeet’s Children’s Council was present at the fundraiser, to discuss how they can represent the voices of the youth community

By Swathi Manchikanti

LUSAKA, Zambia, 29 June 2015 – Barefeet Theatre, a Zambian non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to using theatre and creativity to empower vulnerable children, has been an integral partner to UNICEF Zambia since 2010.

According to Barefeet’s Artistic Director, Adam McGuigan, UNICEF Zambia’s work with the children has not only been more interactive and tangible because of Barefeet’s involvement, but their work in turn has significantly impacted the group’s ambitions for incorporating social impact into their art.

“It has allowed Barefeet to bear witness and relate to some of the human rights issues that many children in Zambia face every day, from child marriage and living with disabilities to malnutrition and lack of access to proper education,” said McGuigan when he spoke last week to a packed private sector fundraising event held to garner support for Barefeet’s upcoming Summer Festival: One Drum, Many Beats.

One particular aspect of their work has strong resonance with the traveling theatre group, and it is the messaging around sanitation and hygiene practices.

Over the past three months, Barefeet has worked diligently in 15 schools in three districts to encourage children to adopt easy and healthy behaviours such as washing one’s hands during critical times and how to do so with the help of locally sourced hand washing facilities.

While most interventions use traditional methods to disseminate such behaviour change messages such as public service announcements, Barefeet was able to draw out excitement from the student crowds by using an interactive skit that put the trainees at the centre of the show.

© UNICEF Zambia/2015/Manchikanti
Martha Mkandawire and Elizabeth Zulu, two youth trainees, proudly display their Barefeet Festival T-shirts

“The Adventures of Dr. Handawire” leads students through modules during which they must be earth’s protectors by solving health-related riddles and spreading the knowledge gained to others. Taonga Tembo, Barefeet’s Programmes Director, described in his reports how “the enthusiasm of the children was encouraging and infectious.”

The impact they saw at the end of the hygiene and sanitation training, said many of the performers, was unforgettable.

The highlighted Summer Festival is meant to be two weeks full of passionate and vibrant performances by Barefeet artists and children, as well as international stars. According to McGuigan, “As far as Barefeet is concerned, we will never do another performance, intervention, or module that does not some aspect of sanitation. Something very simple, even to do with just hand washing, is massively inspiring because it is a simple [practice] that has a lot of impact.”

Elizabeth Zulu, a Barefeet youth trainee and performer, expressed why sanitation and hygiene messaging was personal her. “It’s because it improves on many areas, from how people can be clean to how they can protect their water, and it all together helps so many kids.”

To learn more about Barefeet Theatre’s work in supporting every child’s access to a healthy life, visit its website at


For more information:
Swathi Manchikanti, Communications Specialist, UNICEF Zambia
+260 211374200 Ext: 2126,



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