The room reverberates with voices. Nine men and women in small clusters, pages of SASA! scripts in front of them, are acting out an interaction between the two sexes that hopefully will help an audience become more aware of the issues surrounding power imbalances between men and women. This is the hope of the newly formed Kamanga Community Drama Group. Conso and Abduli, Cedar Tanzania’s Field Officers walk around, listening, watching and offering advice about how the novice actors could better their performances.
There is an excitement in the air. Nothing like this has ever happened before in Kamanga, but Cedar Tanzania, in partnership with Raising Voices, has been implementing the SASA! program since 2015, in order to challenge the status quo and begin the process of helping the Kamangan community make better choices that will hopefully end violence against women and girls, stop the spread of HIV and create safe and loving families.
“We know that violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of HIV infection. We know that the power imbalance between men and women fuels these pandemics. But how can we address such a complex and deeply rooted issue? SASA! is Raising Voices’ response to this question.” Raising Voices
The SASA! methodology utilizes a variety of ways to help a community audience explore the question of ‘How do you use you power?” Posters and flyers go a long way towards generating community discussions but a dramatized skit does more. Drama brings the issues to life and helps the audience ‘see’ the impact that their choices could have on their partners and their children.
The SASA! program does not allow the showing of acts of violence in any media format, whether in print, film or dramatic skits. Instead, dramatic performances show how men and women can make choices about their uses of power in a non violent way. Questions are levied to the audience after each performance by a Community Activist to explore alternative, non-violent ways of resolving domestic and relationship issues between men and women.
The program in Uganda has been highly effective, shifting the thoughts and behaviours of people in communities where SASA! has been implemented:
“I learned that some of the things I used to do were not right at all . . . for instance I thought that whenever I needed sex I had to have it without her denying me.” —male community member.
“I have changed a lot. I no longer beat her as I used to. I no longer use abusive language on her.”—male community member.
“In the past, we would just ignore it if a man beat his wife, but now I think it is not okay to ignore it.” —female community member.
We hope that one day Kamangan community members will also be able to share these thoughts about how SASA! has changed their attitudes.
Cedar Tanzania is planning a SASA! day event in Kamanga village in which the drama group will be performing a variety of drama skits that will help provoke discussions with the audience. Games, posters and flyers, music and football will help make this SASA! event day memorable and enjoyable, yet also informative . We hope that Cedar Tanzania, in partnership with Raising Voices, will be a few steps closer towards ending violence against women and children in the village of Kamanga.