Afghan Women Speak Out Through Theatre: the Theatre for Social Development Project
Women across Afghanistan are uneducated, isolated, and without information about their rights. Under tribal law, women face violent consequences for breaking traditions. Despite the 2011 Violence Against Women Act, women continue to face abuse, with no way to speak out and little access to justice.
The Theatre for Social Development project has responded to Afghan women’s isolation by forming all-female theatre troupes that reach women in villages, prisons and shelters. Women in Afghanistan are heavily restricted in their activities and excluded from access to essential information. Even TV and radio are considered men’s domain. Our project builds the capacity of local theatre companies to reach out and educate both men and women in their communities, by carrying crucial information about health, civic issues and women’s rights to isolated areas. By forming all-female troupes within each company, the groups can reach all-female audiences for the first time, especially women in rural areas.
Bond Street Theatre has been working in Afghanistan for 10 years. This Spring, we worked with the Nangarhar Theatre in Jalalabad. This theatre troupe is well respected, yet all its members are all male and play female roles dressed as women. Our project brought women into their group for the first time, thanks to Farahnaz. Farahnaz is a 19-year-old Jalalabad woman who has been supporting her family since she was 13 following her father’s death. She managed to attend school and ensure that her sisters did too. When we met her, Farahnaz was thrilled to join our project and gathered 15 women for the program, going to each girl’s house to convince their fathers that this opportunity would benefit their family and community – no small feat.
Theatre is hardly known in Afghanistan after 30 years of war and Taliban rule. It is often confused with TV and film that do not present a traditional view of women’s dress and behavior. However, women are eager to speak out about their lives and problems. Our strategy allows women to create performances about their concerns and speak directly to other women in a safe environment through the powerful voice of theatre.
Most of the women we train are taking to the stage for the first time. The Nangarhar group is our third women’s theatre group in Afghanistan. The young women are shy during the first days of the workshops with almost inaudible voices, but they quickly blossom, soon shouting their names out loud, telling stories, standing tall, and speaking out with poise and determination. Seven women are now in Nangarhar Women’s Theatre, with Farahnaz as their fearless leader. The troupe’s first shows confronted issues of early marriage, girls’ education, and the debilitating effects of local backbiting. After each performance, the women facilitate a talk-back session in which the audience is invited on stage to speak directly to the characters in the play. The troupe reached 1262 women and children in one week, continues to perform, and has begun teaching theatre to girls at the local high school.
At the end of the project, Farahnaz told us, “The performances were the greatest experiences for us. Theatre is like a guiding light shining on our society, and all that I learned here I will teach other girls as well.”
More About This Charity
Bond Street Theatre
Bond Street Theatre creates innovative performances that cross cultural borders, and initiates theatre-based projects for education, healing and empowerment in critical areas worldwide. Current focus areas: Afghanistan, Haiti, Myanmar, Guatemala.
- This Charity raised $208,241 in the past year.
- This Charity helped 12,053 in the past year.
- Seven young Afghan women created an all-female theatre troupe in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, reaching over 1,260 women in rural villages