Empowering Women from Marginalized Communities through Theater: Art as a catalyst for Social Change

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Empowering Women from Marginalized Communities through Theater: Art as a catalyst for Social Change

In May 2016, we started a new project with disadvantaged women living in an urban slum in South Delhi. The program uses the language of theater with disadvantaged women and girls living in Mahipalpur, to enable them to find their voices and tell their stories. Currently, between fifteen to seventeen women are regular participants – the youngest being 18 and the oldest in her 40s. By the end of the project, there will be a theater performance based on the stories that emerge from the group.

Through an arsenal of theater games, techniques, and exercises, the participants explore their inner worlds in a concrete form—for example, through movement, words, or character, and as a result increase their self-awareness and ability to express themselves to others, think critically, view things from alternate perspectives while challenging mainstream ideas, and understand different subject positions while empathizing with other people’s experiences. This process functions as a powerful springboard for initiating insightful discussions (verbal and non-verbal) on complex topics such as family and societal pressures, gender issues, power relations, stereotypes around masculinity and femininity, sexual assault, domestic violence, female foeticide, personal struggles, trauma and explore alternatives that trigger transformation and healing. Theater thus becomes a rehearsal for real-world action.

The programme uses theatre as a catalyst to effect social change in the community. The idea is to transform the “monologue” of a traditional performance into a “dialogue” between the audience and the stage. The programme will enable and empower both the performers and the audience (the members of the community) to critically analyse the situations/questions faced by them, explore alternatives using problem-solving approaches which in turn may ultimately lead to collective action and change.