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Myanmar, Republic of the Union of

UNICEF teams up with traditional folk groups to teach good hygiene in Myanmar

© UNICEF Myanmar/2009/Myo Thame
Members of a traditional folk group present a comedy sketch to participants in a UNICEF-sponsored hygiene workshop in Yangon, Myanmar.

By Anna K. Stechert

YANGON, Myanmar 27 October 2009 – For centuries, Myanmar’s hugely popular traditional folk performance or ‘Zat’ groups have travelled the country, entertaining audiences with comedy, song and dance.

This year, for the first time, five Zat groups will be promoting basic hygiene in Labutta Township, which is still recovering from last year’s devastating cyclone in Myanmar. They will perform in 100 villages, targeting approximately 70,000 people.

“It is my chance to give back to the people,” said Moe Gyoe, who owns and manages one of the groups. “I am from the cyclone-affected area. I lost my mother and other family members in the disaster.”

Teaching proper hygiene
In order to increase the Zat groups’ understanding of hygiene, UNICEF Myanmar recently held a five-day workshop in Yangon with scriptwriters and performers. The participants were asked to incorporate messages about basic hygiene into their scripts.

The resulting storylines ranged from a funny sketch about a man who misses his wedding because of diarrhoea to a serious dialogue on how child deaths can be avoided by proper hygiene and handwashing with soap.

© UNICEF Myanmar/2009/Myo Thame
Members of a traditional folk group practicing correct handwashing during a workshop organized by UNICEF in Myanmar.

“I was amazed to see how imaginatively they incorporated the messages into the dialogues and songs,” said UNICEF facilitator Lasi Kum Jaa Lee.

A learning experience
By participating in the UNICEF workshop, the Zat performers learned valuable information about how to avoid disease in their own lives.

“I came to the workshop expecting to learn skills and information that I could relate to the people watching our shows,” said performer Ma Aye Thandar Kyaw.  “I had not realized that I would learn so much for my own life. For example, when I washed my hands, I did not always use soap. Now I know how important it is to wash hands with soap.”

Currently in rehearsal, the five groups will hit the stage in November, with each group covering 20 villages in the course of a month.



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