Empowering girls through theatre in Ghana
12 October 2017, Accra, Ghana
On International Day of the Girl Child (11 October), the UN Gender Team (UNGT) joined forces with Rayuwa Foundation and Act for Change to exchange with some 80 girls from the Ghana-Lebanon Islamic School about challenges a girl could face in her life, and – through participatory theatre – envision alternative scenarios. The girls shared their experiences of violence and discrimination, and came up with bold ideas for what should be done to create a safe environment for them to be able to achieve their potential.
Jennifer Asuako, Gender Analyst at UNDP and Chair of the UNGT, welcomed the girls aged 9 to 15 saying: “We are here today to listen to you and find out from you which challenges you face in your daily lives, and make sure we address them in our future work.” She informed them about the UN’s commitment to empowering women and girls in Ghana, as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and especially Goal 5 on gender equality.
The Act for Change team performed a play telling the story of 15-year old Yasmeen whose dream was to become a lawyer. Throughout the play various challenges, young Muslim girls could potentially face were highlighted, such as discrimination, burden of domestic work, having to quit education, and child marriage. Subsequently, the girls were asked to envision alternative scenarios, and act out themselves their ideas of what they could have done differently if they were in Yasmeen’s shoes. This they did excellently.
Ms Asmau Ayub, Executive Director of Rayuwa Foundation, who had previously worked as the school’s councilor, facilitated an open exchange with the girls on concrete examples of discrimination or challenges they have experienced, and encouraged them to share their ideas of what could be done to improve their situation.
The girls come up with bold suggestions, including: girls should know about their rights, feel confident to speak up, and/or find a trustworthy third party to support them; a safe space should be created at schools and in their communities where girls can freely share their problems; teachers should intervene in case of (a threat of) violation of girls’ rights; education and advocacy programmes should be offered for parents and teachers alike; existing policies have to be enforced; etc.
Closing the programme, Faisal Bawa, Gender Analyst at UNFPA, encouraged the girls to share what they have learnt during the event with their peers in the school and in their communities so that more girls can be reached.
In an Op-ed released at the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, Christina Evans-Klock called upon everyone, “families, communities, Government, traditional and religious leaders, educators, civil society organisations, Development Partners, the private sector – to come together and commit to creating supportive environments in which girls can be equal to boys and can live lives free of discrimination, exploitation and violence.”
The event was orgaised in cooperation with the UNGT, Rayuwa Foundation and Act for Change. The UNGT brings together UN agencies based in Ghana to ensure coordination of the UN’s work on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Rayuwa Foundation is an NGO that is working to empower lives, specifically of girls and children, and reduce violence through human rights training, community counseling and mentoring. Act for Change is a youth-led NGO that organises workshops, projects and interactive theatre to realise positive change in people and communities.