Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

FANRPAN Launches Theatre for Policy Advocacy Campaign in Rural Malawi
“But Who Can Listen?”
31 October 2010

The Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) recently launched a series of Theatre for Policy Advocacy (TPA) campaigns in rural Malawi. Working with its Malawi-based partners, FANRPAN had the first community performances in October 2010 in Sokelele Village, in Lilongwe District.

Story Workshop, the theatre lead for the WARM project in Malawi spent a week in Sokele village where 23 women and men from the community interested in acting, dancing and singing were selected to be part of a community drama group. The Story Workshop team then spent a week with the community learning their challenges and created a story that best portrayed the challenged faced by women farmers in the community. It is from this story that a play based on two prominent challenges: lack of land ownership and lack of access to input markets was developed and performed for the community.

In the play the main characters included a widowed woman having problems supporting her family of five after her late husband’s relatives had seized her best farmland and a married woman who is constantly arguing with her husband because he doesn’t help her with the farming, but spends all their money on beer.

In the play, the women meet coincidentally at a water borehole and discuss issues affecting their progress in farming. They talk about how they aren’t able to turn their farming into a business because of the challenges they face. The women finish their discussion by asking “but where can we report all these issues? Who can listen?”

The performance captured the attention of the community because the actors spoke directly to the audience. The audience included women, men, children, traditional leaders, representatives from the district commissioner’s office, the district agricultural development officer, a member of parliament, university researchers from Bunda College of Agriculture, and representatives from the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM).

A community dialogue facilitated by the Story Workshop team project followed the performance. It was during the dialogue session that Ida Pofera, a divorced woman with three grown up children who, after returning home from her ex-husband’s village has been living without a piece of land for the past three years.

Telling her story Ida Pofera said “I am like a person without a home, because at my husbands’ village they said I belong here and I have no land there…back here they say I don’t have land either because I am supposed to be at my husband’s village…so where do I really belong?”

The community leaders were challenged to address the problems faced by the communities. Responding to some of the questions posed by women farmers, a local Member of Parliament (MP) of the area, Mr. G Kamanya, discussed an inheritance bill being proposed in Malawil will resolve some of the issues concerning land and property grabbing faced by widows. The women in the audience enthusiastically applauded his efforts.

The TPA process in Sokele was a success, the traditional leaders also appreciated the use of theatre and some of their local songs to highlight the challenges women faceand they were encouraged to make decisions guided by these concerns. The community was also motivated to take a leading role in resolving their own problems and initiating dialogue with relevant stakeholders.

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