Research has shown that people, on average, remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see or do. The human brain, especially the developing brain, processes these visual cues and stores them for more rapid recall, able to return to this information. Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) is increasingly adopting edutainment—a practice of educating through creativity and entertainment—to spread messages and reach communities. This approach has thus far proven that people, particularly youth and adolescents, actively engage and remember information when learning is fun, creative, and enjoyable.
Through the Ni-Yetu Youth Project, in partnership with Plan International Uganda, GUIU works under the thematic area of Drama, Dance, and Music (DDM) to strengthen the capacity of existing community youth drama groups and clubs, as well as musicians, to conduct awareness-raising sessions. These groups, equipped with knowledge on various topics, then hold theatre performances in busy, central community locations. Drama performances cover various topics under the umbrella of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender equality, and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention. These forum theatres, held within communities and school settings, are guaranteed to draw a crowd.
Forum Theatre is an exceptional form of local drama that transforms onlookers into actors by enabling them to step into, and change, the narrative by encouraging debate and asking questions so that an audience can learn collectively. This technique has enhanced the behavioral change of young people—beginning with the ones that take part as actors in these outreach sessions. Wilber, a very experienced drama actor, once said:
“Acting has enabled me to consistently change and question my behavior since the feelings are real each time we act. I would not want to see any person go through any form of violence. This has inspired and ignited me to make change happen.”
Community drama is cost-effective and wide-reaching—since 2016, drama performances have reached over an estimated 26,357 people within our communities served. Key messages have ranged from family planning methods, drug and alcohol abuse, sharing responsibilities in homes, domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, violence against women and girls (VAWG), and immunization. The communities have been sensitized about the dangers of abusing alcohol and drugs; the different types of family planning methods available in Uganda; the long-term effects of early teenage pregnancy; positive and role-model parenting practices; and the prevention of GBV and HIV. These performances have stimulated discussions and debates in the communities, which have resulted in positive change and behavior transformation. These performances have also made it possible for young people to be empowered and equipped with skills in drama/acting and life skills.
During the forum theatre, there is a question and answer methodology that creates community ownership of the issues being portrayed for discussion. In one of the forum theatre performances, a woman (not identified) was seen taking part in the drama challenging men’s supremacy in homes. During the discussions, she argued that a husband and wife are both grown-up individuals who need to respect each other to create a violence-free home, sharing responsibilities, challenges, and joys as equals.
Drama performances have continuously educated people about deeply held knowledge while exploring solutions to complex, relevant social issues together with the community members in safe spaces for honest dialoguing. These spaces are deemed ‘safe’ given the support from local religious and community leaders, an aspect that has also contributed to the successful spread of information and visibility of these events.
These messages have inspired other young people to share personal stories with their peers through skits and role play. With the forum theatre approach, community members freely enjoy playful performances where they have an opportunity to participate in skits and create their own stories to share.