Social Art: Women and Water

Teaching Water Resource Management and Women's Empowerment Through Theatre

“Water for the Present and the Future”

BARKA’s first theatrical commission; an original play about a village that has a broken well because the water management committee is misappropriating the funds collected from the local water users.  It is the women of the village who come up with a creative solution to fix this problem and set the community on a path of sustainable and responsible water stewardship.

Year: 2015-2016

Funder: One Drop Foundation

Partner: Espace Culturel Gambidi, Burkina Faso’s internationally renowned theatrical arts center.


  • To make clear the importance of the role of women in water resource management
  • For communities to understand the need to make micro-payments for water usage
  • To teach basic hygiene principles

The play supported BARKA’s WASH project in 5 rural villages funded by Rotary International and performed in 15 villages and 17 high schools in the commune of Fada N’Gourma.

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 local population. This included utilizing a “sand diviner” (pictured right), and genies who appeared in a dream to deliver a message from the Spirit of Water.

Expert directors from Espace Culturel Gambidi led a 3-week training period and helped form BARKA’s 8-person theatre troupe, after which an intensive rehearsal period began.

The play was filled with humor, music and dancing, designed to educate as well as entertain.

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 32 times in 45 days during the hottest time of year- March – May, when temperatures consistently top 100F!
  • Performances were exceptionally well attended- one show had over 1000 people! Audiences absolutely loved it, often completely guffawing and laughing uncontrollably.
  • 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.
  • In 2019, this play was performed again for 10 performances as part of a grant funded by the US Embassy to support the International Water Fund BARKA launched at The Water Fair on World Water Day, 2018. It reached an additional 4500 rural villagers during its 2nd run.

“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 17,831 direct beneficiaries.

People in village and public performances

Students in Fada’s High Schools

Average audience size