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Zambia, 6 July 2015: UNICEF and Africa Directions launch a new global initiative on Theatre for Development

© UNICEF Zambia/2015/Goma
UNICEF Zambia Representative Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim gave welcome remarks to the delegates of the T4D worksop at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Lusaka.

LUSAKA, Zambia, 6 July 2015 – The Government of Zambia, UNICEF, and the non-governmental organization Africa Directions have launched a new global initiative on Theatre for Development in the hub of Africa, Zambia.

Seventy-five Theatre for Development practitioners from 15 countries, plus 30 locally based participants, are attending the global workshop from 5-11 July to focus on defining principles and strengthening practice in Theatre for Development with the aim of more effective community engagement for positive social and behaviour change.

Workshop participants include theatre practitioners, academics from university drama departments, Zambian government representatives from the ministries of education, health, and tourism and arts, plus UNICEF staff and partners such as the Search for Common Ground. Through a seven-day participatory process, the group will assess the current status of Theatre for Development globally and will contribute to the development of a Theatre for Development Facilitators Guide and Toolkit, which is slated to be piloted in Zambia, Uganda and South Sudan before the end of the year.

“The workshop is designed to foster peer exchange and learning about a range of country Theatre for Development models and provide opportunities for technical support and networking. This is a unique opportunity to raise the profile and effectiveness of participatory theatre at the country and global level,” said Africa Directions Executive Director Mark Chilongu. Africa Directions is a Zambian youth-led, community-based NGO with 14 years of experience in Theatre for Development. “Given that quality of life and progress in numerous countries in Africa and across the world is severely affected by conflict related situations, a particular focus shall be laid on the contribution of participatory theatre to wider conflict transformation and peace-building efforts.”

© UNICEF Zambia/2015/Goma
At the global workshop’s opening reception, diginitaries included Kapwepwe, Chairman of the National Arts council; and Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, UNICEF Zambia's Representative.

Theatre for Development uses traditional forms of storytelling and drama depicting real life challenges in order to engage with and empower communities to better know, claim and fulfil their rights. Theatre for Development methodologies are designed to help communities identify, analyze and debate about issues affecting their lives, particularly those related to inequity, discrimination and social exclusion. The cultural art form is also used to analyze and address specific development issues related to health, hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, HIV prevention, education and child protection.

“Global crises such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the more recent earthquake in Nepal have awoken development practitioners to the critical importance of communication to address complex social issues,” said Kerida McDonald, Senior Advisor for Communication for Development at UNICEF’s headquarters in New York City. “The fact that UNICEF has been thrust into a leadership role on the communication component of global public health emergencies has stimulated a re-energized organizational focus on harnessing the power of communication to improve the lives of children and families.”

Theatre for Development is one of many communication platforms that UNICEF is now making attempts to strengthen in its bid to accelerate the fulfilment of child rights, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized, according to MacDonald.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Africa Directions on the Global Workshop on Theatre for Development,” said UNICEF Zambia Representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, PhD. “These are the culturally sensitive and grassroots level initiatives that we should harness more to engage with communities so that every child’s rights are respected. I urge theatre partners this week to strengthen their Theater for Development work to influence positive social change in Africa and across the globe.”

To support the workshop, Africa Directions and UNICEF have partnered with the Government of Zambia through its National Arts Council. Funding for the global workshop has been generously provided to UNICEF by the Government of the Netherlands as part of its global peace-building initiative, which in many countries UNICEF is implementing in partnership with the Search for Common Ground.

The global workshop was officially opened today by the Chairman of the National Arts Council, Mulenga Kapwepwe.

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