Tackling Community Issues on Stage
In Chorku, a small community in the Isfara district along Tajikistan’s border with Kyrgyzstan, Robiya is changing attitudes about girls’ education. In this area, only 42% of girls continue their studies after ninth grade; many girls marry early and quit school to take on household responsibilities. Intrigued by a Youth Theater for Peace (YTP) performance at her school, 14-year old Robiya asked to join the local IREX-supported YTP drama group and quickly gained respect among her family, peers, and teachers for her leadership on stage. Her parents, especially, were very proud. “They started to believe in my capability to learn new things. As a result, I became one of the best students in the whole school,” says Robiya. “Now my parents want me to continue my studies after ninth grade.”
Robiya does not take her parents’ change of heart for granted. She and her classmates staged a play on girls’ education that inspired lively discussion among audiences. “To my surprise, most of the audience agreed that girls should continue school after ninth grade and acknowledged that girls’ education has an impact on the whole development of our society,” she notes.
Nearly half of Tajikistan’s population is under the age of 14, and opportunities to engage youth in activities that promote confidence and leadership are limited, leaving them at risk for destructive behavior. As a consequence, youth are often thought of as a problem rather than as a resource for community problem-solving.
YTP builds the skills youth need to deal with challenging community issues like early marriage, education, and labor migration. “YTP helped me to understand and analyze problems in my community and to look broadly at the issues happening around me in society,” notes Robiya. “Most girls in my community don’t have this privilege.”
The dialogue sparked by such performances also can lead to surprising outcomes. “This year, our school opened an extra tenth grade class because of the increased number of girls who want to continue their education,” claims Robiya. “I also know of several cases where families have delayed or cancelled their daughters’ early marriages after our performances. I think society has made some progress in increasing girls’ education, but YTP pushes it and makes people think about it out loud.”
The above story is originally featured in our 2011 Annual Report. With your help, we can continue to support young women like Robiya and advocate for girls education. Please consider making a gift online through our donation page.