In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one third of all young girls are married before the age of eighteen. In Burkina Faso and Mali, forced marriage is still a very common practice. As a part of its project to support Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Tdh has organised a theatre-forum for these refugees addressing the theme of premature marriage.
Using the theatre to raise questions and awareness
Customs and traditions support the practice of forced marriage but so do other socio-economic factors (gender inequality, poverty, etc.). Raising awareness and acting to support the rights of the millions of children forced to marry prematurely is a priority. Forum theatre is a very useful tool to raise awareness as it provides a light-hearted approach to address sensitive and important issues.
Actors enact real scenarios of forced marriage. Spectators are then encouraged to take the floor and start a debate on these deeply seated social practices. When called upon in this setting, many openly decry and condemn these practices. Stéphanie Bénao Ouédraogo, project leader in Bobo Dioulasso is relieved: «the audience’s enthusiasm shows us that the project speaks to them and that motivates us.»
An acclaimed project
If current estimates hold true, 14.2 million girls worldwide are forced into premature marriages annually. This alarming trend might even worsen considering the increased number of young people in developing countries (source: WHO). Premature marriage brings a brutal end to the childhood of millions of children and too often deprives them of their basic human rights, for instance access to education.
The head of the local UNHCR office, Tdh’s financial partner in this project, is pleased with this effort to raise awareness about forced marriage and with its impact. One audience member acknowledged that she had learned from the advice given, concluding that «forced marriage is on all levels unadvisable».