IREX Europe and its partner organization the Somali Aid Foundation (SAF) engage 100 vulnerable Somali youth in Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT) – helping them discuss and confront the challenges they face as refugees. The Theatre for Peace Project, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is being held in Eastleigh, an impoverished Somali suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, and in the Somali refugee camp of Hagadera, on the Kenya-Somali border. Drama for Conflict Transformation, sometimes known as “street theatre” is a powerful tool that encourages peaceful problem solving.
The project kicked off in December 2010 with two adult Training of Trainers workshops. The adult trainers, mostly unemployed and without focus before the training, have become powerful advocates of the methodology and used it to create their own community group to engage young people in conflict mitigation activities and peaceful problem solving.
In February 2011, these adult trainers supported by IREX Europe DCT Trainer Christine Cox led the first of two youth trainings in Eastleigh, taking 100 young people through a series of DCT exercises. The DCT methodology helps people to identify the problems they face and develop skills to think through potential solutions on three levels of responsibility: family, community and government. They then go on to debate and identify peaceful solutions. This challenges the traditional clan rivalry that is so entrenched in Somali culture and enables youth to think through their problems rather than reacting aggressively and emotionally. Through the process, youth also learn to work in harmony with one another regardless of gender or clan.
At the beginning of the trainings, when their views were challenged, the youth would quickly react aggressively. By the end of the training they were holding open discussions on emotional events and issues such as the loss of family in conflict, the lack of opportunity as refugees, and the threat of being drawn back to Somalia. The youth worked together to offer potential solutions that sought collective responsibility and peaceful outcomes. Furthermore, boys and girls learned to work together in teams, with some girls transforming from painfully shy to confident and naturally leading discussions.
On the final day of training, different teams had to develop short plays about the problems identified in their community and perform them in front of the others, involving the audience in discussions. 16 plays were developed in which youth participants wrote and sang songs that expressed sorrow for the state Somalia and regret that Somalis have allowed clan conflict and violent political parties to dominate. Key social problems identified by the youth included rape, corruption, forced marriage, domestic violence, drugs, trafficking, tribalism, lack of women’s education, and violent crime. The songs lyrics again reflected a sense of collective responsibility, as well as a call to action for peace in their own country and recognition that change can only come from the Somali people themselves, as this excerpt from one of the songs shows:
“We have no snow and no bad weather in our country, but we have ruined it. Somalis please stand up and build your country! There no one is asking you for your ID. No police to stop us on the street. We need to build our own country and make it good!”
For more about the project, please visit: Kenya: Learning theatre to promote peace and understanding among Somali communities
Young girls working with DCT methodology
A youth group preparing the play Dharib (fleeing Somalia)
Warm-up exercises to prepare youth for the theater workshop