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Drama and music fight against gender-based violence in all forms Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by TellUs, Jul 1, 2007
Media , Culture , Human Rights , Popular Culture   Short Stories
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Every year, across the globe, thousands of women and girls are being trafficked and sold into virtual slavery.

What if it happened to you or someone in your family?
What will you do about it if it does?

These are some of the questions that Khuluma Afrika!, a community theatre production created by Community Media for Development/ CMFD Productions and the Alertas da Vida youth group, asked audiences in South Africa.

CMFD productions and the Alertas group, working with the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Southern African Counter-trafficking Assistance Program (SACTAP), created the dynamic production to conduct outreach around issues of human trafficking and migration among the Mozambican community in South Africa.

Performed in Portuguese, with some dialogue in Shangaan, English, and Zulu, the production aimed to raise awareness about human trafficking, make people aware of the IOM hotline number, and encourage people who may have been trafficked or potential whistleblowers to seek help.

The trafficking of women and girls between Mozambique and South Africa is a significant problem. Recruiters promise lucrative sounding jobs in South Africa, and assist them in crossing the border, either by legally obtaining travel permits, or by smuggling them across. This, in itself, can be an arduous process that may involve walking for long hours through the bush alongside a border post in order to avoid being caught by border guards. Once victims are across the border, they find the promises made by recruiters are false. The trafficked women and children are forced to work for low or no wages, or are sexually exploited. Victims feel isolated, trapped, and alone, as they often cannot speak any South African language, do not know anyone, are unable to access services and do not know where to go for help. The IOM estimates that around 1000 people are trafficked from Mozambique every year.

Khuluma Afrika!, workshopped and rehearsed over a two month period by the Alertas group, tells the story of two Mozambican sisters, drawn to South Africa by false promises of a better life. Separated, desperate and exploited, the two girls seek solace in letters to one another that express their hardships, hopes and dreams of home. The main drama is accompanied by comedy skits, also created by the group, that talk about life in the mines, being far from home, migration and discrimination. The show, which toured mine hostels, public spaces,like parks and busy street corners, and churches incorporates drama, song and dance. Since it has minimal technical or set requirements, it has the unique ability to be performed anywhere from an auditorium to a public park.

Though the production focuses on trafficking and migration, it incorporates a variety of related issues such as women’s rights, gender and migration, HIV/AIDS, etc. Each performance, where appropriate, is followed by a post-performance discussion and evaluation, where audience members have the opportunity to ask questions and get more information.

Feedback from the production has been overwhelmingly positive. One audience member at a drop-in centre for sex workers in inner-city Johannesburg remarked that the show reflected her own experience of coming to the city from a rural area, saying that she had been told someone was arranging a job for her. When she arrived, she was brought to a brothel and forced into sex work.

An interesting spin-off in the project messaging was that people from various audiences also took an anti-discrimination message from the play. In post-performance discussions, and in written evaluations, many people gave comments like, “no matter where you come from we [are] still all the same,” and “we should help each other as Africans.” Without expressly intending to do so, the production engendered a pan-African sense of caring for each other together as equals, as well as raising awareness of trafficking and migration issues. This strengthened the overall message of the play, and, though it was originally targeted at the Mozambican community, this additional message gave a heightened relevance to non-Mozambican audiences.

In addition to the theatre production, CMFD and Alertas da Vida were awarded a grant from the Global Fund for Women to add a music component to this project. The music was developed to deliver messages about gender-based violence, human trafficking and migration. It was also developed with a particular focus on production value, on creating music that people listen to because it is good, not just because it contains a message. The CD, entitled Humbanane, loosely translated as ‘caring together’, will be distributed to radio stations across the country. The music was also added to the performance line-up to increase audience interaction.

Currently the only theatrical initiative dealing with these issues in South Africa, Khuluma Afrika completed its 20-performance tour amid several requests for an extended run, including a Mozambican tour. Though presently unable to fulfill these requests, CMFD and the Alertas group hope that one day they will be able to take the show further, encouraging communities across Southern Africa to work together to end human trafficking and violence against women in all forms.

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