Members of the Somaliland Youth Peer Education Network (Y-Peer) have started utilising theatre skills and participatory drama methodology to raise awareness on gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and promote behavior change.
The initiative follows a training on theatre-based technique (TBT) which UNFPA Somalia, in partnership with Somaliland Y-Peer and the Somaliland National Youth Organisation (SONYO), organized from 4 December to 7 December 2017 in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The training was aimed at building the capacity of peer educators to be able to lead on the theatre skills and participatory drama methodology.
The Y-Peer Network is a groundbreaking and comprehensive youth-to-youth initiative, supported by UNFPA globally, consisting of more than 500 non-profit organizations and governmental institutions. Its membership includes thousands of young people working in many areas, including those involving adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
Y-Peer also builds partnerships between young people and adults by advocating for policies and services, such as: national youth development strategies; increased access to information, knowledge, and services on sexual and reproductive health; and the sharing of lessons learned across borders and between cultures.
UNFPA Somalia reproductive health officer Ms. Masumi Maehara said 25 young women and men representing youth organizations in their respective regions from all over Somaliland participated in the TBT training.
“We used a variety of learning methods to make the sessions as interactive and engaging as possible so that the youth participants could be confident and express their opinions openly and perform their roles effectively in acting,” said Ms. Maehara.
A TBT approach emphasizes that a scene created by young people themselves has a main educational objective with clear key messages for the audience. For example, a main educational objective could be to sensitize the communities to abandon Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and key messages would be that FGM increases the risk of urinary tract infections and other health complications, which in turn would hamper a girl from fulfilling her potential in life.
“The participants practiced scenes that they came up with throughout the training days and improved their performance everyday with feedback from other participants.
They were all able to create five scenes on FGM, domestic violence, denial of resources, rape and forced marriage,” said Ms. Maehara.
A member of SONYO who is also a local artist, Ms. Fawzia Ahmed Omar, 35, appreciated the training. “This came at the right time and with the right people. We have been hearing of a lot of domestic violence cases happening in the communities affecting women and young girls and we’ve been wondering what we can do about it. This training is like an answer as it was a really good chance to learn how to perform a drama to raise community awareness about GBV,” said Ms. Omar.
She said the training is just the beginning of many activities that will be carried out to fight GBV and promote SRHR and behavior change.
“I have three things to do now that I am trained. One is drama performance in my community. Two is to write on the paper a message to the community and tell people to stop violence against women through the social media and the last one is to paint to send meaningful messages,” said Ms. Ahmed.
Following the TBT, Somaliland Y-Peer in collaboration of ministries of Labor and Social Affairs and Education performed integrated educational theatre at Farah Omaar Secondary School on 10 December as the world commemorated Human Rights Day and to mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence to challenge violence against women and girls. More than 700 students participated in the event to advocate complete elimination of all forms GBV.
Mr. Hamse Mohamed, one of the performers of the theatre said it is important that everyone becomes part of the fight against GBV. “All girls are like my sisters, I will never let them experience violence from anyone. Let us all fight GBV,” said Mr. Mohamed.
The Principal of the school Mr. Saed Shiil, told students during the performance that they should be agents of change in the society. “You are all requested to fight all forms of GBV in your schools, families and respective neighborhoods. I also encourage you to transfer these important messages from the theatre to your families and friends. Together, we can eliminate FGM,” said Mr. Shiil.
The script of the theatre, which covered early marriage, denial of resources, rape, FGM and other forms of violence against women was developed by Faarah Omaar School Club under the guidance of Somaliland Y-Peer trained ToT, according to UNFPA Somalia Youth Analyst Ms. Fatuma Muhumed.
“During the performance, young actors shared core messages on GBV prevention to fellow students in an appealing and comic way. I am very delighted to see that adolescents and youth in the high schools of Somaliland are keen to take part in efforts to eliminate gender based violence in such creative ways. Let us leave no one behind and end violence against women and girls,” said Ms. Muhumed.
Ms. Muhumed said the young people also promised with the show of hands never to cause any harmful practice to any women and girls and all participants of the theatre made commitment to prevent all forms of gender based violence and become agents of change for better Somaliland.
According to Ms. Muhumed youth and adolescents in Somaliland constitute a large proportion of its total population and that they can be the engine of social change, economic growth and state- and peace-building agents.
Ms. Muhumed said young people can, however, be security threats and a source of social disturbance as well if they are not given the right and fair opportunities and if their rights are not protected and respected.
“Tragically, the chance to realize one’s potential is often derailed, particularly for girls, who are denied education, subjected to FGM, child marriage and poor access to health care. Empowering young people to bring about change in their society and positively influence their own peers and communities is critical, especially during the 16 Days of Activism,” said Ms. Muhumed.