Moved by its belief in the fundamental right of all people to have access to safe drinking water and clean sanitation, the Indian non-profit organisation HEEALS (Health Education Environment and Livelihood Society) embarked upon a behaviour change communication (BCC) project that used applied theatre in an effort to create awareness about the importance of education and clean water. As part of the project, HEEALS collaborated with students from the Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD), University of London, United Kingdom (UK) to reach out to schoolchildren in villages and urban slums in Gurgaon and the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) region of India.
The initiative lasted for 9 weeks in different schools in and around Delhi and NCR Region, culminating the drama series in Kaushambi Convent School Bhowapur Village (Ghaziabad) on November 23 2012. Also, a drawing competition with the theme of "Clean City with Clean Drinking Water" came to fruition on November 30 2012. In each school, children participated in hour-long drama sessions, which resulted in an interactive play being performed in front of children's parents, fellow students, and staff. The plays were performed on the topics of "Motivational Play to Decrease School Drop-outs", "Girl Child Education", "Hygiene Practices", "Toilet Use, Stop Open Defecation and Encouraging Girl Toilets", and "The Importance of Water Conservation".
According to HEEALS, the CSSD students used dramatisation to communicate important messages in a fun, imaginative, and expressive way in an effort to foster students' understanding of the subject matter. The potency of applied theatre was reflected in that its method was inclusive, and its purpose went beyond language barriers. Through drama conventions such as tableaux (freeze-frames) and role-play, the children were able to grasp the ideas of the topics by investigating elements of the subject areas and communicating how they really felt about these issues. Pictures and keywords were used as stimuli to trigger knowledge, thought, and action in the children, so they could then share their opinions and work together in creating the final story for the piece. In encouraging girl child education and role of sanitation, all the girls were able to come up with a script that described why education and sanitation was important to them. In addition, the children were equipped with performance skills such as improvisation, characterisation, and voice projection.
As noted above, the initiative also incorporated other interactive forms to educate children about sanitation issues, such as poster-making and class decoration competitions with the theme of "Sanitation and Drinking Water" to garner the interests of all children from the school.
Children, Youth, Girls, Health
According to HEEALS, India is the open defaecation capital of the world, where people have more mobile phones than toilets. This is a big concern, but people do not want to talk about it. "People in many part of the villages here make their homes without the toilets as they don't see any use of it even if they have money to build it, instead of this they go out and defecate in the open, without knowing the ill effects and consequences of it on their health and environment."
HEEALS is a civil society organisation, most of whose staff is working on a voluntary or semi-voluntary basis, that is working to provide resources, knowledge, expertise, and leadership to help the people and communities across states of India to use their own resources, skills, abilities, and other assets to improve the quality of life, environment, education, and livelihood and that of future generations. Click here to learn more about HEEALS.
Email from Chinu Vats to The Communication Initiative on February 21 2013; and HEEALS website, February 21 2013.