IREX Europe, in partnership with the Kenyan Community Support Centre, is implementing a project which helps disenfranchised youth address and work through conflict and community tensions using theatre. Our team uses Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT) which is a special Forum Theatre methodology that creates a safe space allowing discussion of normally taboo subjects such as the drivers of conflict, women’s rights, radical islam, and many others. The project, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, targets Kenyan and Somali youth in the multicultural district of Majengo, Mombasa. IREX Europe and its partners have successfully implemented the methodology with Somali populations in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh, in Hagadera (Dadaab refugee complex) and in Somaliland.
Kenya is home to 900,000 Somali refugees and Kenyan-Somalis. Somalis first arrived in Kenyan in the 19th century ; however, immigration increased following the civil war which broke out in Somalia in 1991, when many Somalis sought asylum in the Somali-inhabited enclaves of Kenya. Kenya also hosts Dadaab, the worst largest refugee complex, currently home to 460,000 Somali refugees, more than 150,000 of which have arrived in 2011 after fleeing the severe drought in Somalia.
In October 2011, the Kenyan Government began sending troops into Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabab, which it blames for a series of cross-border kidnappings on its terriority. Tensions and mistrust between Kenyans and the Somali community have correspondingly increased. The project works to promote peaceful coexistence in the multi-ethnic community of Majengo district, Mombasa, which hosts a high number of Somali refugees and a diverse ethnic Kenyan population. Mixed groups of young Kenyans and Somalis are brought together and using DCT they are led through a process which allows them to safely discuss critical issues that confront them and their communities.
DCT is a rich methodology that encourages improvisation and play to help participants develop new views and behaviours. In situations of entrenched conflict, where debate and historical analysis rarely serve to change minds, and where debate and discussion are often virtually non-existant, DCT unlocks the creative power of individuals and communities to adopt new perspectives and develop new solutions for community problems.
The project will target young Kenyans, Kenyan-Somalis, and Somali refugees, as well as adults who will build their capacities to support youth. An initial training for Somali and Kenyan adults living in Majengo will teach them how to use the DCT methodology. The trained trainers will then go on to work with young Kenyans and Somalis, leading theatre activities in their community. At least 100 youth will be involved in the theatre activities.
A smaller group of highly motivated young participants will have the opportunity to attend a follow-on theatre workshop, which will prepare these youth to share anti-conflict plays with communities in Majengo and across Mombasa. Participants will learn how to engage audiences and involve them in exploring conflict issues through Forum theatre shows. Through a small grants component, the project will allow these young people to organise their own theatre troupes and conduct Forum theatre tours within their communities. These youth–led informal theatre showings will reach hundreds of additional youth and adults in schoolyards, youth centres, and market areas.
To learn more about other IREX Europe Drama for Conflict Transformation projects:
Somaliland: Theatre to promote peace and understanding
Kenya: Learning theatre to promote peace and understanding among Somali communities
Indonesia: Promoting Tolerance and Dialogue through Interactive Theatre in Eastern Indonesia
Play about discrimination toward Somalis in Majengo
The Forum Theatre audience
DCT expert Christine Cox leading a trust exercise
Practising play on girls’ education
Discussions on the play topics
Play about marriage between a Muslim and a Christian
Play about corruption