Theatre for a Change’s method of working is well-founded in research and practice, owing much to Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre techniques, the educational theory of Paulo Freire and Robert Chambers’s insights into Participatory Learning and Action.
Our methodology was first applied in Ghana in 2003 as a response to the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic. It has since been applied in Malawi, the UK, the USA and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In late 2017 we began working in Bangladesh. In 2018 we will begin working in Rwanda, Tanzania, Swaziland and Nepal. Our approach has also been used in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire.
Our methodology addresses a spectrum of issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and gender. 15 years of using it on the ground with at risk groups has equipped us with a robust evidence base and a comprehensive, proven approach to achieving sustainable, positive change for our participants.
How it works
Our work comprises two core objectives: behaviour change and advocacy.
We use the experiences of participants as the starting point of the process of change.
We explore with participants the way voice, body and space are used in relationships – and how this can put us at risk. If we can’t make eye contact with our husbands, for example, what does this mean for our sexual health?
Then we practise using the body, voice and space differently, to achieve a different outcome, and make the relationship more balanced, safer and healthier.
Changing Social Attitudes through Advocacy
We believe participants are the experts in their lives, and are best placed to tell their own story to the wider public, and particularly people in power.
Using Interactive Theatre, groups of marginalised people tell their own stories, in their own words, to people they would never normally meet, let alone talk to – and they involve the audience in taking on the part of one of the characters in the story to find a better ending.
When this is focused on a particular law or policy, it is known as Legislative Theatre. In the photo below you’ll see participants from our Sex Workers Project, who marched through the streets of Lilongwe, Malawi to the Ministry of Gender, campaigning for their rights to be respected. They then used Legislative Theatre to perform their stories of experiencing sexual violence in front of an audience including the police and parliamentarians.
Through this approach, marginalised people gain a voice – and people in power find out what it is like to face their struggles.
The Theatre for a Change definition of advocacy:
Advocacy is a process whereby we convince others, generally decision makers, to support positive change such as a specific policy change or resource mobilisation. It can apply at different levels, from the home to the government, and imply small or large changes, depending on the situation and the problem addressed.