Theatre of the Oppressed vehicle for social change

Wahidullah Azizi, Integrity Watch Afghanistan | @WahidSays

Do you remember a situation in which you felt being oppressed? A situation where you were forced to pay a bribe or your legal rights were trampled on? What was your reaction? What did you do to alter the outcome?

Last week, we trained community members, activists and volunteers on how to act in a situation like this, using the Theatre of the Oppressed. Equipping them with new tools, Integrity Watch Afghanistan is training community members on combating corruption, promoting the culture of integrity and holding public servants to account. Additionally, the training course seeks to increase knowledge about court procedures and trials. The training, organized by Integrity Watch, was attended by more than 30 community mobilizers, activists and volunteers, where they were encouraged through a variety of roles an in the theatre play.

Following the successful conduct of the training of the trainers (TOT) in Kabul, the participants transferred their knowledge and acted in different plays in 10 provinces, including Balkh, Herat, Kapisa, Kunar, Bamiyan, Jawzjan, Laghman, Parwan, Nangarhar and Kabul.

As a result, more than 130 community leaders, activists and volunteers learned how to use the Theatre of the Oppressed as a tool to get the anti-corruption message across and create a sense of self-reliance and public intervention to solve the issues they face. People can play a critical role in holding the government accountable by asking where their tax money ends up, monitoring and delivery of services by the authorities, as well as getting involved in decision- making on their future.

Ahmad Bilal Popalzai, one of the trainers, believed the Theatre of the Oppressed was “institutionalizing” the way issues were being addressed in the community. “The theatre has resulted in raising awareness among members of society and encourages the introduction of a culture of change from within.” Furthermore, Popalzai said, the theatre was “boosting confidence” among the participants.

Facilitated by Integrity Watch, 134 community volunteers will deliver the show and act in 10 plays across the 10 mentioned provinces, benefiting hundreds of thousands of [eople directly and indirectly. Mohammad Sadiq Anwari, a community volunteer from Kabul who acted as an abusive husband in a play revolving around domestic violence, called the acting a positive experience. Theatre of the Oppressed, having the potential of addressing many public issues, was an effective tool for conflict resolution and social change, he commented. Arezu Sultani, who also acted in the play with the screen name of Toorpekai, said: “Theatre of the Oppressed is a useful tool to raise awareness among the downtrodden about their rights.”

Integrity Watch conducted a similar theatre in 2017, generating a great deal of interest within communities. Under its Community-Based Monitoring of Trials programme, Integrity Watch strives to promote open and fair trials based on Afghan laws. In 2017 alone, community volunteers — through the programme — monitored 992 trials and 734 cases. Open trials help narrow down the gap between the public and the judiciary.