By Emily Hotchkiss - The theater group, JUNTOS (Jovens Únidos No Trabalho para Oportunidades e Sucessos – Youth working together for opportunities and success) has worked many times with the Gorongosa Restoration Project in the Community Education Center (CEC). In the past, the group has developed theater pieces to deliver environmental education and conservation messages in creative ways to the communities in the buffer zone of Gorongosa National Park. Well-versed in the park’s conservation messages, the group arrived at the CEC very animated to begin their training and to continue working with the Ecohealth team to deliver health messages.
Twenty-nine students and two teachers, Mandinga and Alfredo Jochoma, of the Eduardo Mondlane Secondary School in Vila de Gorongosa participated in a three day training about the importance of Gender Based Violence. The training, led by Ecohealth’s Program Manager, Lucas Jackson St. Mart, was funded through a USAID initiative specifically promoting gender equality and reducing violence in the home, school, and workplace.
The first day of the training was devoted to differentiating between the cultural aspects of a person that contribute to gender and the physical aspects that define an individual’s sex. The students were given scraps of paper that had different actions written on them. They then had to choose whether the action was something that only men could do, only women could do, or both. After much heated discussion and debate, most actions were moved to the column devoted to both, demonstrating the gender and the activities that individuals are expected to do are constructs of a society’s culture. In small groups, the participants listed the physical aspects that are different between men and women, discussing what makes up an individual’s sex.
Once the concepts were well defined, the theater group was introduced to the different types of violence: psychological, domestic, physical, and gender based. They did group work, listened to presentations, had discussions and watched films from the group N’weti that portrayed the different types of violence. The films clearly demonstrated the importance of combating the problems brought about by gender based violence and even moved some to tears. One of the take home messages was the need to have an open dialogue between partners to prevent problems from arising.
After gaining a great deal of perspective about these topics, the group spilt into two to start elaborating theater pieces in the local language, Sena, that will discourage the use of violence to resolve domestic conflict and inform women about their rights under the new laws. One of the pieces even incorporated the importance of not poaching park animals. The rest of their time was spent going on a safari to see the animals and practicing their plays through constructive group revision.
JUNTOS was able to unveil their theater piece on Gender Based Violence for the first time on September 25th, Armed Forces Day, in Vila de Gorongosa, during the cultural activities. Due to their overwhelming popularity, they were asked to repeat their performance later the same day for the District Administrator. We expect that in the future, they will continue to use the theater piece to introduce these delicate topics to community members and successfully start the dialogue on gender based violence.