Under a blue doomed sky, the people of Kamanga make a circle around the Primary School football field. The leaders of the village have already made their introductory speeches, opening this first ever community wide SASA event, organized by Cedar Tanzania’s SASA team. Abduli, one of Cedar Tanzania’s Field Officers, is now on the microphone, hosting a SASA game exploring issues of power. He sounds in charge. This is a game he has led many times. He makes jokes in between his instructions and whilst the music plays in the background he busts a dance move or two.
There is laughter and fun in the air and the crowd buzzes with curiosity. There has never been anything like this in Kamanga village. But as part of Raising Voices' strategy for SASA, such community wide events are an integral part of spreading the message about how men and women can use their power to support and benefit one another and their families.
Discussing issues of power imbalance in families and their link between violence against women and girls and the spread of HIV/AIDS, is not a topic that is easily discussed in Tanzanian culture. But SASA has found a way, through drama sketches, followed up by thought provoking questions that engage the community in thinking through some of the issues surrounding this very important topic.
Three actors are now in the middle of the field. The first sketch begins. It shows a verbally abusive husband complain to his cowering wife about the lack of food on his plate. Storming off from the house he enters his local bar, where he drinks his daily wage away. The slurred speech of his caricatured drinking buddy is met with much laughter from the enraptured audience. The husband is shown hooking up with one of the bar girls. A loud round of applause follows the actors as they exit the centre of the field.
A SASA Community Activist (CA) is a member of the community that has been trained by our Cedar Tanzania staff, in the different ways of facilitating discussions, on the various issues of power imbalances between the sexes. One such CA, clad in a blue SASA/Cedar t-shirt, now takes the microphone. She holds it rather nervously and begins addressing the crowd; ‘What do you think of the husband’s attitude towards his wife?’ ‘What could the wife have done differently?’ ‘Who has the power in this relationship?’ Both young and old come forward to offer up answers; ‘The husband shouldn’t speak to his wife like that!’ ‘If he doesn’t give her money to buy enough food, what else can she do?’ ‘He has all the power, and he is not using it well.’ ‘If he gave his wife more money instead of using it on beer and other women, then he would have a happier wife and home!’
Straight away the next sketch is set up. This time we see the same wife refusing her husband sex. He insists and says it is her duty to keep him happy. There are a lot of disgruntled murmurs from the audience as insistence gives way to verbal abusive, and reluctantly the wife relents and walks slowly to the bedroom.
The next scene shows his drinking buddy come in to visit the husband. He has some bad news. He and his wife have been given some medical results which inform them that they have contracted HIV. The husband stares blankly at his friend and says nonsensically, ‘Now why did you allow your wife to be tested? That was your first mistake!’ The audience laughs at this silly statement, but soon silence falls as the husband realizes that he and his drinking buddy have been sleeping with the same bar girl. Now he faces the dilemma of whether he himself should get tested and whether he should tell his wife that they may now have HIV. Men, women, and teenagers hear the message, and the seeds of change are sown.
Ramsy, Cedar Tanzania’s project leader of SASA confirms the strength of using drama to explore SASA’s often sensitive issues. “The message on power and violence is made simple, clear and easy to understand through the use of multiple SASA strategies, which are applied in an entertaining way; whereby different forms of violence together with their consequences are demonstrated through role play and drama.”
The village is together in this moment. Together they watch members of their own community being the actors in the drama group and being the Community Activists who are engaging the audience in thought provoking discussions. The community also sees the leaders of the village, the chairman and the police chief, stand side by side with the SASA Community Activists. This sends out a loud and clear message, that everyone, from every social strata in the village, champions this message of power balance between the sexes.
The SASA event concludes with games. These games include an egg and spoon race, a sack race and men and women racing each other to see who will be first to finish two sodas and two donuts! The audience cheers as it watches the efforts of the participants. It’s fun, it’s light hearted, it’s memorable and it’s working.
Ramsy hopes that the people of Kamanga, will in the future, ‘support women experiencing violence,’ by having, ‘men committed to change and activists who speak out against violence.’ Cedar Tanzania’s introduction of a SASA event in the village is seeing Kamanga take a big step towards making this a reality.
Find out more about Raising Voices and their SASA initiative.
Watch the video of the first ever SASA community event in Kamanga village.