Using Theatre To Teach Hygiene Education To Villages And Schools

Why Use Theatre?

Since BARKA began working in Burkina Faso, it has incorporated culture and the cultural arts into its development work. This is because music, dance and culture are integrally incorporated into daily life in Africa.

In the rural villages of Burkina, where the vast majority of people are illiterate (UNICEF cites adult literacy rate at 28.7%), theatre provides a valuable opportunity to convey important social messages.

8 Stars Are Born

In 2015, through the financial support of One Drop Foundation, the water-focused NGO based in Montreal, Canada founded by Guy Laliberte (founder of Cirque du Soleil), and with the help of Espace Culturel Gambidi, an internationally renowned theatre center based in Ouagadougou, BARKA Foundation formed a new theatre troupe with some of the most talented artists in the Eastern Region. We held auditions and began a series of trainings with 16 artists. After two weeks, 8 finalists were chosen to ultimately became the actors of the troupe.

A New Cultural Force in the Eastern Region

As a funder of this endeavor, One Drop wanted to develop BARKA’s capacity to do further “theatre sensitization” after this project was completed. Therefore, they helped us to purchase professional sound and light equipment, and provided funds to build our own stage, which we bring deep into the bush and can assemble/de-construct quickly. It was created entirely by a local metal artisan who comes from a long line of metal workers. This technical material enabled BARKA to put on a theatre production (“spectacle” in French) the likes of which the local area had never before seen.

The Creative Process

BARKA’s creative team worked with its Technical Assistant in WASH to understand the key social messages most important to get across to reinforce the hygiene education of BARKA’s WASH project in 5 villages. The team utilized its understanding of the local Gour’mache culture to write an original play that resonated with the people while reinforcing key concepts of:

  • Basic hygiene education
  • The need for the village’s water committee to collect small sums of money from water users to save for future repairs
  • The importance of the role of women in water resource management

The result far exceeded our wildest expectations—we had a hit on our hands!

It’s a Hit!

  • The play, “Water for the Present and for the Future” performed 15 times in rural bush villages (in indigenous languages of Gulimanchema and Moré) and 17 times in high schools in Fada (in French).
  • Post-performance debates allowed the audience to take part, to engage with the issues raised in the performance, to give feedback on how it relates to their own lives and village context, and even at times to make commitments to improve their situation (for example, in the village of Koare, after the performance one of the chief’s ministers pledged funds to fix the local well which had recently stopped working).
  • Through the training and capacity building of several local theatre associations and a number of actors, an important contribution to the local artistic scene was made.

“I never worked so hard at a job and was so tired at the end of every day and yet look forward to going to work and doing it again tomorrow because it was so much fun.”

Firman Dialga

Actor in the BARKA Troupe

Quantitative Results:

The “spectacle” was seen by 13,331 direct beneficiaries.

People in village and public performances

Students in Fada’s High Schools

Average audience size