When 14-year-old Gulnara moved from Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan to Tokmok, a small city near the capital of Bishkek, regional divisions made it difficult for her to integrate. Following violent conflict in the south, her parents had come north in search of work only to be greeted with suspicion by their new neighbors. While Gulnara excelled in school, some of her new classmates quickly seized upon regional differences, mocking her dialect. After she was involved in a physical fight with a classmate, she begged her parents to let her change schools. But at a summer theater camp organized by IREX, Gulnara entered a safe space where she could share her story and learn conflict resolution skills. Using an interactive technique called Forum Theater, Gulnara and other campers created a play about her experiences and invited the audience to come on stage, intervene, and discuss the problem. With IREX support, Gulnara and her teachers went on to create a Drama Club at their school and to perform the play for city administration and local education and law enforcement officials.
In a community with few extracurricular outlets for youth, the Drama Club gives atrisk youth a chance to participate in meaningful activities, to build self-confidence, and to dialogue about key community issues. As Kyrgyzstan charts a new course, initiatives like these help youth become a positive force for change in society, serving as leaders and ambassadors of peace in their communities and regions.
The above story is originally featured in our 2010 Annual Report. With your support, we can continue to help youth like Gulnara in their fight for peace. Please consider making a gift online through our donation page.