Details for Reform Option "Street theatre as an Information, Education & Communication tool, Tamil Nadu"
Itinerant street theatre (known in Tamil as Kalaipayanam) was incorporated in a campaign on health and gender issues in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, funded by DANIDA.
With the focus on creating awareness about female infanticide, women’s empowerment and community participation in health, a number of skits and songs were developed at workshops under a professional street theatre playwright and director.
A team of street theatre activists working full time with the district mass literacy campaign helped to shape the language and idioms to give them local colour and authenticity and they also served as master trainers. The active involvement of key officials was a significant feature of the effort.
The themes touched upon were:
(i) violence against women;
(ii) early marriage and frequent childbirth;
(iii) rights to reproductive choice, education and employment;
(iv) dowry, the preference for sons and the wider context of patriarchy which provide the basis for the practice of female infanticide;
(v) the importance of antenatal care and institutional delivery in minimising maternal deaths;
(vi) the need for male participation in reproductive and sexual health;
(vii) the exploitative character of commercialised private health care and
(viii) the right of people to access public primary health care.
Around 280 persons, a third of them women, were gathered together in 18 theatre troupes and trained for a fortnight. Over a period of 40 days, they presented 140-150 performances each lasting 60-90 minutes. The programme kicked off with a colourful rally involving the Minister of Health and the Minister of Information and Publicity.
In every primary care centre, a team was formed to liaise with community leaders over the purpose and timing of the campaign and the facilities needed for the performance and the artistes. Between 26 April and 12 June (1998) – approximately 3,000 performances were conducted before a total audience of 8,00,000 people.
Baseline and end surveys were conducted to assess the impact of the street theatre programme on the behaviour of the community.
The street theatre campaign seems to have provoked a large and statistically significant increase in the average number of outpatient attendance at Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the district and a substantial increase in the number of deliveries at PHCs.
However, it is important to note that the IEC effort at Dharmapuri was even more about community mobilisation than it was about communication and information.
It was noted after the campaign that several local communities had formed sub-centre committees and given valuable land at the centre of the village for a new sub-centre, participating in planning and helping with construction.
A major portion of the costs are one time investments. The main recurring costs are the incentives given to the performers.
Initially Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, between April – June 1998.
Kalaipayanam activity was started in Dharmapuri district and extended to Thiruvarur district in May 1999.
Based on the success this programme was extended to one of the RCH sub-project districts Theni.
The Kalaipayanam activity was slightly modified for another sub-project district Madurai.
Based on the success at Madurai, the modified Kalaipayanam activity is under progress in Vellore district (September 2004).
Under RCH II this activity will be extended to all districts of Tamil Nadu.
Policymaker’s clearance: one month
Funding support from the agency: one month
Proposal to get Govt approval and allotment of funds: one month
Selection of topics for IEC/BCC: one month
Selection of script writers for drama, lyrics for songs etc. : one month
Selection of place for practice/ rehearsal: one month
Selection of artists from the health functionaries, social welfare functionaries, NGOs, women groups etc. : one month
Procurement of musical equipments, audio and lighting equipments: one month
Formation of block level troupes: one
Script writing and approval of scripts from the programme managers: one month
Selection of master trainers and training them and training of the block level team: two months
Actual conduct of Kalaipayanam activities in the village: continuous activity
Some activities can be combined and can be carried out simultaneously.
Attention grabbing: The street theatre performances focused attention on health and gender issues and generated a great deal of discussion, providing a rallying point for health workers, activists and community leaders.
Misses some sectors of society: It seems that theatre performances were not acceptable to some people belonging to the minority community.
Possible opposition: From health functionaries who may consider this activity as an additional workload and from service providers who may fear that the community will now demand quality services due to increased awareness.
-- Clear and simple messages.
-- Trained performers.
-- Good venues and times for the performances.
Who needs to be consulted
Policy makers and programme managers.
District health managers.
Health and health-related officials, NGOs, women’s groups, Panchayat leaders.
Depends upon funding however costs are minimised by selecting the performers, who must all have suitable skills, on a voluntary basis.
Chances of Replication
Good. The project has already replicated well across various districts in Tamil Nadu (see Location box).
Sara Joseph, Researcher, ECTA, New Delhi. September 2004.