Somali Communities Theatre for Peace project begins in Kenya

Eastleigh launching event Hagadera launching event

Kenya: Learning theatre to promote peace and understanding among Somali communities

Our community, including the elders, welcome your project in Eastleigh as it wants to bring peace and understanding among our youth," stated a Somali community leader during a launching event in Eastleigh, an impoverished Somali suburb of Nairobi, Kenya.

IREX Europe and its partner organization the Somali Aid Foundation (SAF), hosted the event on October 14th, inviting a broad range of Somali community representatives: elders, women, religious leaders, and of course youth, the target group of the project which aims to promote peace and understanding amongst Somali youth. The project is underway in both Eastleigh and the Somali refugee camp of Hagadera on the Kenya-Somali border. A second launching event took place on November 19 in Hagadera. Here, particular attention was given to invite representatives of the Kenyan-Somali local community and of Somali minorities, including the Bantus, as most tensions and conflicts in the refugee camps are linked to resource scarcity and resultant tensions among different communities.

The project involves using theatre as a tool to help youth confront the issues that can drive them toward conflict. The technique, known as Drama for Conflict Transformation, or DCT, is derived from Brazilian street theatre. IREX Europe aims to build local capacity in DCT and to this end, the IREX Europe team travelled to Eastleigh and Hagadera to begin selecting 60 people from the local communities who will become themselves leaders in DCT methodology.

IREX Europe’s DCT expert Christine Cox and Project Manager Flora Graioni, worked with local partner SAF to select former teachers, theatre workers and others to be trained in DCT. The selection process involved putting people through a workshop with roleplay activities such as "frozen pictures," where small groups of 4/5 people had to be a “frozen image” representing a conflict situation drawn from local experience. The images depicted were of family and urban violence, fights over vital resources such as food and water, and the addiction of young men to kat, a leaf chewed extensively in Somalia, was a common theme. Final selection was based on active involvement, interest in the games, quality of role-plays and discussion. The project team ensured gender equality through the selection of 50% women; and in Hagadera about 20% were selected from the Kenyan Somali community and 20% from minority groups. In addition some local NGO representatives were included to enable further use of DCT methodology for current and future projects in their organizations. Christine and Flora will return in December to conduct the training sessions with those selected. The project will then role out to both Eastleigh and Hagadera where the local trainers, with guidance from IREX Europe, will run DCT workshops for youth from both communities.

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