Raising the consciousness through Theatre (Déou, Burkina Faso)

A bit of history:

Since 1986 AMURT is working in Déou, one of the world remotest and poorest region 300 miles North of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. This is a semi-desert like place with a sandy type of soil and thorny bushes. There is no road, no electricity and the weather is extremely hot most of the year. The villagers rear cattle and during the short raining season they grow their local cereal (some sort of millet).
Our late Dada Rudreshvarananda initiated many projects like reforestation, alphabetisation, digging of wells, building a health dispensary, etc… Nowadays our main focus is health and amongst other things we are training AVs “Accoucheuses Villageoises” who are 32 local women who help and support mothers before, at the time and after giving birth and some ASVs “Agent de Santé Villageois” who are 7 local health agents helping in providing the basics in health care (mostly regarding malaria, conjunctivitis, wounds and dysentery cases). Our effort there is greatly appreciated for no other NGO is coming forward to help in such a remote and tough place to live (and to reach!).

Today’s need in raising the consciousness:

Raising the consciousness is the most urgent and durable service we can possibly offer. Now in order to help the local population to become more and more aware of issues like AIDS, female genital mutilation, hygiene, malnutrition,… we are planning to train 10 young boys and girls (from Déou area) to perform a play which purpose will be to bring to the people these issues in an attractive and educative way.
We contacted two experienced trainer specialised in “theatre forum” who can in a very innovative and humorous way put into play day to day happenings of the villagers in order to point out common misbehaviours. Right after the act the public is invited to react and comment the play and together (including government health officials) we try to find the best way to improve the situation.
People of Déou area are still mostly uneducated (more than 90% of illiteracy) and that is the main obstacle in bringing improvement in their life style. Raising the consciousness, educating the people is the very fundamental need. The”theatre forum” is a very appropriate way of the rising of the consciousness. Plus it is not new here in Burkina and it has proved so beneficial whenever it has been used in educational campaign.
Help in bringing to local population’s awareness such issues was first requested by the Major of Déou area (the main health official) alarmed by the rise in AIDS cases amongst the youth.
That is why, we think that it is urgent to implement some campaign and to do it in a way people can relate with and really learn from.

Project characteristics and advantages :

-The first part of the project shall happen in January 2009 and last for 14 days. In this span of time 2 experienced trainers will train 10 actors; they will form a theatre troupe and create a play based on local health and other misbehaviour issues.
– The actors will be offered (vegetarian!) collective lunch for the whole period of the training.
– The troupe will then be officially recognized by the authorities and will have the possibility to independently create and offer plays… It will be a great opportunity for these selected young boys and girls who will get a potential income from it.
– Then this is the second part: at Easter time the play will be performed in the main villages confined in Déou area (minimum 5). One supervisor (how was previously the main trainer) will have the troupe rehearsal and be ready for acting the play. After acting the play the public will be invited to a dialogue with the actors, AMURT and the health officials. A list of question will be prepared and given to the public in order to estimate their understanding of the issues involved during the play and to evaluate the actual impact of the campaign.
– The troupe will remain available for AMURT or any other benevolent organisation for any other similar campaign in the future (and the need is so great in such remote areas).

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