The city of Alappuzha in Kerala, South India, is widely known to outsiders for the beautiful backwaters and scenic houseboat tours. For many of those who call this area home, however, life is filled with many challenges to be overcome.
Near Alappuzha, the Women’s Initiative Network is partnering with SAFP and the Government of Canada to help 20 communities to solve their poverty related issues. This year, nine of these target villages identified ‘lack of proper health care’ as the problem to be addressed, since they did not have proper access to healthcare or information about health issues. It was found that pollution was contributing significantly to the health problems for the villagers. In order to raise awareness about this issue, it was decided to create a street play to perform in the target villages.
The idea of a street play was discussed during the meetings of the Village Action Teams in these communities. One difficulty they faced was finding someone who was willing to write the script and direct the play. The Program Animator discussed this in the villages and found that one of the VAT members in Veluthully village, Mr. Surendra, had experience directing plays. He agreed to take on this role and write the script and within a week, the script “Jagratha” was completed.
Another challenge was finding people to act in the play. The Animator and VAT members talked with many people in the nine villages, but the villagers were not available to participate. Since the people in these communities rely heavily on daily wage labour for their incomes, they could not take the time to rehearse the play and perform it at each of the villages. The Animator spoke with the VAT in one of the other villages that had selected a different issue and found that the community members were interested in participating. Five people were selected to perform and one man volunteered to play the drum. They rehearsed for a week and then they were ready to perform.
The group started by performing in just one village and eventually showed the play in all nine villages. It was presented in the crowded junctions of the villages, where the team was warmly welcomed and many people attended. Through the play, the team was able to create awareness among the people about pollution and the related health problems.
This initiative was unique and deeply meaningful, as the play was created and performed through the efforts, talents, and cooperation of the VAT members. The script writer, director, actors, and drummer were all members of a VAT. The banner for the play was even created by a VAT member. This activity required some time and creativity to complete, but they were able to generate awareness in an engaging and memorable way.