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Kamran Ahmed's Fundraiser:

Combating Violence Against Women in Pakistan through Interactive Theatre

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Kamran Ahmed

THE STORY:

Violence against women has shot up at an unprecedented level in district Ghizer, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, over the years. Researches on the issues relate them to little or no awareness of human rights in the district. Reports suggest that suicide rate is the highest among young women of the district. 

During years 2000 to 2004, 49 women committed suicide in Ghizer, according to a study by the researchers at the Department of Psychiatry, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. Age groups of the suicide victims were as follows: 16–25 years, 29 cases; 26–35 years, 17 cases; 36–60 years, 2 cases; and above 61 years, 1 case. 

From 2005 to July 2011, about 369 women attempted suicide in the district, according to a report in DAWN newspaper. A majority of the suicide cases took place in the Yasin valley, Ishkoman, Gupis and Ponial. Ironically, a majority of the victims were educated young women. 

It is pertinent to mention here that these figures are significantly higher than suicide rates in other parts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan. The issue calls for immediate intervention in the form of human rights awareness campaign for both men and women of the district. There is also an immediate need for a wide-scale intervention to address the high psychological pain among women of the district. 

In Gilgit-Baltistan, particularly, women experience high levels of domestic violence (AGHE. 2006). The issue’s severity can be further corroborated from the following news reports:

http://beta.dawn.com/news/647442/ghizer-police-set-up-women-complaint-centre

http://pamirtimes.net/2013/04/30/17-year-old-girl-commits-suicide-in-sherqillainstitutions-asleep/

http://pamirtimes.net/2013/01/20/2012-was-a-horrible-year-for-human-rights-in-gilgit-baltistan-ihro/

The rise in suicide cases and violence against women, especially young women, necessitates urgent action. Under the proposed project, Mountain Youth Resource and Social Welfare Organization (MYRO) intends to use the interactive theatre approach to change the behavior of the district’s inhabitants by involving young men and women and the public in stage dramas relating to human rights.

The issues to be addressed under the proposed project include violence against women and rising suicide rate among women of the district. The proposed project model is simple:

MYRO trains training participants in interactive theatre------------The trainee/activists perform on stage in front of the public ---------- Trainees involve the audience in the play--------Audience applies the learning in their lives and the society. 

Interactive theatre is an effective advocacy tool that engages the community in dialogue on social issues hindering the development process. It is a technique of theatre, developed by Augusto Boal, in which the participants are not merely spectators but a part of the drama. The play involves a character who commits a social error and all other characters make mistakes towards the end and reach at a wrong decision (that is usually practiced in the community). Then the audience/public present on the occasion is asked if the decision is correct. They are asked to play part of the character that made the mistake and show how they could improve the situation. In short, this form of theatre is a rehearsal for life.

 

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