African and Asian MSc students at VHL put on a 'forum theatre' performance about violence against women and girls last week. The public could intervene and were given food for thought.
'There is a lot of domestic violence against women and children. They are the most vulnerable', says Afghan student Khalida Mukhid, who is specializing in Rural Development and Gender. In a second scene, she played the neighbour of a woman who is abused by her husband. 'In Asia and also in many African countries, you cannot call the police for that. Everyone will laugh at you, or get cross, or worse.'
This form of theatre, called Forum Theatre, can be used to get people to think about practical solutions for difficult situations, says Mukhid. Neatness Bwenge, who plays the role of the abused woman, agrees. In Tanzania she works for an organization which teaches women to cook by modern methods, for example using a charcoal oven. 'Using traditional methods, women have to carry heavy loads of firewood and when they are out collecting it they run the risk of being raped', she says. Bwenge hopes to use Forum Theatre in villages in the future. 'It can raise awareness.'
And the abused woman in the students' play? Women in the audience advised her to go to a women's organization or a respected member of the community. The most impractical but hilarious suggestion was, 'Replace the husband!'