Learning from Malawi
My name is Zione Abu Allie and I'm 29 years old. I started sex work when I was 15. I have one kid who is now 10 years old and will be finishing primary school this year.
I started sex work because of the death of my parents and I was lacking support. Some of the challenges I faced in sex work included being beaten, being raped, sometimes not being paid by clients.
I came into contact with Theatre for a Change when I was 25. When I joined the programme, I was surprised by what we were learning. We were learning about things like sexually transmitted diseases, condom use among many other things. And by and by I started learning a lot of things which helped me to start changing my behaviour. I also started learning about gender and sexual rights which I didn't know about before joining TfaC. I then realized that my rights were being violated and I was also violating other people's rights. But I'm glad I learnt about my rights and responsibilities.
I have benefited a lot from learning about these rights and from everything else I learnt at TfaC. I am HIV positive and I could have died, but now I am living a very healthy life as though I am not positive. Even when I talk to other people about my status, they do not believe it; I don't fall sick often. With the things I've learnt in TfaC, my life has completely changed; I've now gone back to school which I quitted a while back.
It was very easy using our own life stories to devise interactive theatre performances that we would use to reach out to others to teach. It was also easy going into bars and market places where we would go and offer psycho-social support to those that are still in sex work. It was and is still not difficult because I have been there and I use my own experiences to talk to them and some even are surprised when I tell them about myself. What was difficult for me was being confident and to believe in myself, but by and by, I was able to gain that self-esteem and confidence. Learning how to be a community facilitator was not easy as well, especially learning how to write workshop plans and also have to adjust from waking up in the afternoon to waking up early in the morning. But in the end, I got used to it and now I have no problems.
One thing I would love others to learn about facilitation because it is through the workshops that are run that people begin to change. I would also like if parents and guardians of children (minors) could be reached out to them and talk to them about sexual exploitation of children. Most young girls who are exploited say they have been sent by their parents to go source for money, but the parents don't realize what they are doing to the children, so if they can be reached out to, it could help in protection children from such things.(I will send photo to accompany)
My name is Annie Ajusa and I am 30 years old. I started sex work when I was 15 years old. I came into contact with TfaC in 2009. Some women and girls approached me and other sex workers within our area telling us about TfaC and what it does. They told us if we were interested, we could join and we would be learning things to do with HIV&AIDS.
When I joined, there were so many things I learn. One of the things was about sexual and gender rights that I have and some of them include the following:
- The right to choose a sexual partner
- The right to have protected sex (by using condoms)
- The right to be protected from sexual abuse
- The right to receive help and support when abused
- The right to express myself
- The right to report any form of abuse by the police
- The right to sexual and reproductive health education
One main thing I've learnt for myself is having protected sex (using either male or female condoms), considering that I am at risk of HIV infection. Before being a part of this learning at Theatre for a Change, I used to do sex work; going into bars and sleeping with different men without any protection. This life was very bad, even my family and other relatives would say bad things like, 'you prostitute, you will die with HIV'. But after participating in Theatre for a Change's programme my behaviour changed, I stopped being a sex worker and now I do a small business from my home. One good thing about Theatre for a change is that it helps you change your behaviour, but also, it helps you gain some vocational skills such as sausage making, baking bread and soap making. I am urging others who are still in sex work to come to Theatre for a Change so that you can reduce your risk of HIV infection and re-infection. My plea is that Theatre for a Change should continue reaching out to our friends who are still in sex work so that they too may change.
Out of the things we learnt, there was nothing I particularly found difficult to learn or understand. One thing I would like others to learn from the programme is to reduce or end this sex work behaviour and also learn the vocational skills to help them keep out of sex work. I personally have changed through Theatre for a Change and would like others to do the same. I am very thankful that I have been helped to change and a lot of others here in Lilongwe, Malawi have changed as well through Theatre for a Change.
There are a lot of children being sexually exploited in the name of sex work. A lot of people do not distinguish between a sexually exploited child and a sex worker and the people who are supposed to protect these children are the ones abusing them. These are children of sex workers, street children and from the rural areas. There is a law that protects these children but in the absence of law enforcement, their vulnerability will remain at the increase. I have learnt that the Police are the major stakeholder in this field and also the communities through the child protection teams. There is a lot of work here to be done.
There is need for well informed sex work projects programming. For example I learnt that making sex work safe should be the main goal than having a focus on stopping it. Although others may stop sex work but most of them remain in sex work. This is largely because of poverty. There is a lot of abuse and stigma surrounding sex work. The legislative Theatre, is the powerful advocacy tool on the challenges faced by these women and young girls.
Claire Walsh - Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager, Malawi
Learning is a constant process at Theatre for a Change. We use the information gathered on the quality of our programmes' implementation and the progress of our participants' learning to inform our decision making and improve our programming as well as determine our impact. We also believe in sharing our learning with our stakeholders with the goal to elicit feedback from them on our work and learn from their experiences as well.
The Banking on Behavioural Change project is an innovative partnership between Barclays Bank Ghana, Theatre for a Change (TfaC) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) that started in July 2011. The projectseeks to use Interactive Theatre and other behaviour change communication strategies to improve financial literacy and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) issues among young people, teachers and parents of 60 first and second cycle schools ( 30 private and 30 public) in the Greater Accra, Central, Ashanti and Eastern Regions of Ghana over two years.
Participants going through character development ('Hot seating') section of story devising.
This is the first time TfaC Ghana has focused on financial literacy. We knew the project would be important as a way of helping vulnerable people, particularly girls and women, reach and access services and advice which is often closed to them. The first 6 months have been really exciting for all of us and has helped us expand our own learning. Particular lessons learnt for project implementation include:
- Letters from the Ghana Education Service headquarters in Accra and regional level GES offices to the schools facilitated their commitment to the projects.
- Pre-test and post-test was essential to know the level of knowledge before and after training. Also it helped participants to focus as they wanted to improve their performance in the post testing exercise.
- Involving the Regional and Municipal School Health Education Programme (SHEP) Coordinators in the selection of schools made the selection easier as well as the schools commitment to participate.
- Field practice during training improved trainees performance and understanding of the difficult issues.
Learning from the UK
Over the last few months I have been developing the strategic plan for the Theatre for a Change Federation, and I have been speaking to lots of people in TfaC in Malawi, Ghana and the UK, whether they are Trustees, members of staff or participants. What is clear is that we are an organisation with a unique methodology which is particularly effective in the empowerment of girls and women both on a local level in schools and communities, or on national levels, where groups of marginalised women such as sex workers have been able to tell their story to people in power. What has made all the difference in this process is that we work at creating a balance of power in gender relationships, where women and men, girls and boys are living and working together as equals - a balance that means better health and prospects for men as well as women. Our Equals Campaign promotes this message of balance for HIV prevention, and we would like to thank all our partners for helping to support this campaign.
Patrick Young, Founder and Executive Director of TfaC