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Young Visionaries Project: Street Theater Raises Awareness of Inequity and Violence in Rural Nepal

Written By: Sunita Basnet
August 30, 2010

 

In my previous blog post, I wrote about the one day free health clinic I organized in Mrigauliya in rural Nepal. Today I am going to share my experience of the other half of my Young Visionaries project: directing and producing the drama “Silent Scream.” The play is about early and forced marriage, witchcraft, single women, and women’s rights. It also emphasizes the positive impact of education on young women, gender equity for the overall betterment of women and ultimately a more just and equal society in Nepal. The drama was performed in Nepali language (I originally wrote the script in English and had it translated into Nepali).

It was Saturday, May 29, 2010; four boys were carrying a dead body, which was wrapped with white cloths and lay flat on bamboo. One young man was making music with a woodwind instrument called a Shankhaa, which people use to make sounds that announce that a dead body is being carried to a funeral pyre. A group of people, including women, were following them. No one in the market knew there had been a death at Salakpur, the village where we planned to perform the street drama, so when the people in the marketplace saw the body they were surprised. The buyers started asking the sellers about the death. There was no answer. Everyone was curious and came toward the dead body.

Finally, the dead body –which wasn’t really a dead body at all, but a way of drawing a crowd–was taken in front of one shop and the street drama “Silent Scream” started. In the beginning of the drama, there were only about 20 people but gradually, the size of the audience increased; ultimately there were about 200 audience members when the drama was done.After we finished our drama, some of the women from the audience came to me and said that it rang true to their lives. Some of other women requested that we perform the same drama in different villages to help raise people’s awareness of the impact of gender inequity.

I am the director and script-writer of this drama. My goal has been to create enthusiasm around sexual rights and reproductive health, as well as volunteerism among college-aged youth. I wanted to encourage people to speak out about HIV/AIDS and speak against any form of discrimination. The 18 characters of the drama were played by the students of grades nine and ten from Bright Future English Boarding School. There were ten volunteer crew members for the drama; six from the school and four from the Women’s Saving Club, a group that I founded in 2004. The principal of the school, Tika Ram Dhakal, was highly inspired by my initiative. As a result, after our drama, he requested his physical and health teacher to do another drama and perform it for the public so as to improve awareness in our society on various aspects of healthy lives.

Overall, the International Women’s Health Coalition Young Visionaries grant has made it easier for me to provide sexual rights and reproductive health information and services to impoverished people, especially women and young people, in Mrigauliya. Additionally, it has also supported me to develop community awareness of and commitment to health issues and the ways that gender inequality make women and girls vulnerable. The most interesting things about working on this project is that is has been a way to develop relationships among non-governmental organizations and institutions in Nepal that are working on sexual rights and reproductive health.

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