Using Forum Theatre to Prevent HIV in Malawi's Youth

Bristol, United Kingdom (PressExposure) July 18, 2011 -- Temwa's AIDS Action Clubs in Schools project, aimed at protecting the next generation of Malawi's youth from the spread of HIV, has established 30 successful clubs in primary and secondary schools since March 2010. These clubs use a variety of creative means to share important information with children about how they can protect themselves from the disease, including theatre, dance, and music.

Kamini Tavanandi, a volunteer project coordinator from the UK, is working with our AIDS Action Clubs to ensure long-term success and involvement from the community, and to incorporate forum theatre into the club's activities to help students recognise for themselves the importance of halting the spread of HIV.

Forum Theatre and HIV Prevention

Forum theatre, or "Theatre of the Oppressed," was established by practitioner Augusto Boal as a means of getting across an important message to a group of people by allowing active engagement in a piece of theatre which is relevant to their struggles. As the audience creates the drama, they also learn how to change the outcome of the characters in the play - helping to equip them to make better decisions in real life.

Kamini works alongside the incredibly dedicated Temwa Project Assistant Hillary Kondowe to manage the AIDS Action Clubs in Usisya, and as a team they have helped make the clubs more effective and impactful than ever.

Tavanandi talks about her work introducing this form of drama to our AIDS Action Clubs this year:

"In working with the AIDS Action Clubs, my main aim was to share the skill of forum theatre which is a very effective way to get the community discussing problems and solutions about HIV & AIDS. The introductory training conducted in 30 schools was a success. We started by playing some fun interactive games that focus on leadership, communication, teamwork skills and also gather information about HIV & AIDS.

"The main part of my work with the clubs was then the forum theatre. The reason I like to use forum theatre is that it is a way to get everyone to participate and rather than me telling them what they should do or trying to create solutions in a country I am only visiting, the students themselves look at the situations presented through dramas, discuss and then create the solutions. The best part is that they then get to act out the solutions and see how they would work through role play and improvisation. This puts the 'Action' into the AIDS Action Clubs. We don't sit and write, I don't lecture and we don't just talk about what to do-We do, we act, we are active!

"It has been amazing to see these intelligent, charismatic, dedicated young people getting involved and really working out some good solutions that I would struggle to think of. For most of them it was the first time that they were really discussing taboo issues with their peers and their teachers and speaking openly without fear of being judged or ridiculed. It was a safe forum for them and one which could have gone on for days if time had permitted.

"From these trainings we identified 4 strong leaders from each club which we then invited for advanced training on how to be a forum theatre facilitator. The idea being that these people will go on to lead the clubs and train them in what they have learnt. The clubs should be run by the youth and I want to empower them to take their clubs forward. They are very capable of this and with the right tools they can be the voice for the community.

"These leaders have now been trained in how to energise a group of people using warm ups and games, how to facilitate games and exercises themed around HIV & AIDS and most importantly how to lead a forum theatre session. This involves creating and directing a forum play with a group of peers, facilitating it as forum theatre to the community, getting the community to discuss solutions and then trying them out in the drama and leading discussion and summary at the end. Fortunately these youth excelled in the training and although they found it challenging they have grasped the basics of forum theatre.

Kamini has made some incredible strides in working with our AIDS Action Clubs, but there is still more to be done to ensure that the next generation of Malawi's youth are equipped to protect themselves from HIV.

Mobile HIV Awareness Video Shows

Another large part of the AIDS Action Clubs is the idea that members of these clubs become ambassadors for their schools to help spread the word about HIV prevention. At each school involved in the project, Temwa staff host mobile video shows, at which we present our feature film "Mawa Langa" the first HIV & AIDS awareness film in the local language of Tumbuka which is aimed at youth in Malawi.

Tavanandi has used the film as part of her theatre work, creating a forum discussion on the film and allowing audience members to engage in the story of the characters through discussion and drama. "The mobile video shows go hand in hand with the AIDS action clubs and it has been refreshing to see the whole school captivated by this film and moved to discuss openly and articulately the issues portrayed," said Tavanandi. "These eagerly-awaited shows need to continue as we need to see everyone talking about the very real problem of HIV & AIDS."

The future of AIDS Action Clubs

Arguing for the necessity of the expansion and continuation of the AIDS Action Club project, Tavanandi believes that the good progress that has been made must be sustained in order to make a lasting impact on the youth involved. "Further training and monitoring is needed and to stop now would only makes things go backwards. There are also some schools in the remote upland areas that are struggling and need special attention and much more guidance and support which the teachers are crying out for. They lack basic interaction and social skills and find discussion and drama very difficult.

"The trainings have definitely helped, but it will take them more time to feel confident enough to take their clubs to the community. Ideally we can have enough time and funding to continue training so that eventually they are fully equipped to run the clubs and regular forum theatre sessions in the community and hopefully go on to train other youth in the schools and community.

"The thing that keeps me going with this project is seeing that even though we are from different countries with different languages cultures, we can have a universal language through forum theatre and a common goal which is to educate, change and inspire positive futures."

Kamini will continue working with the clubs over the coming months. If you would like to help, donate now to support Kamini's inspiring work with Temwa's AIDS Action Clubs.

About Temwa

Dan Yeo
Communication Assistant

Temwa serves the communities of Northern Malawi in four key project areas: health education, schools support, vocational skills training, and sustainable agriculture and forestry. The various ongoing projects we run within these areas are providing solutions to poverty, hunger, disease and underdevelopment in these communities, while helping the people of Malawi to build their own sustainable future. Temwa is based in Bristol, UK and has a ground team running in Usisya, Malawi.

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Press Release Submitted On: July 18, 2011 at 6:54 am
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