Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day 2 of Peace Camp - Theatre, Dance, and Activism

Day 2 of Peace Camp-August 13, 2012
(I guess it's important to note that these are personal reflections based in my own perception, are not meant to be offensive, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of all attendees.)
During a play put on by the “Rafiki” theatre, it really concerned me-the moments when the “kids” would laugh. The play was about domestic violence and women’s rights. Examples acted out included a woman wanting to go back to school, and another saying “no” to sex.  When the male actor would act out beating the woman, or even throwing her down on the ground to rape her, the audience would laugh… why did they laugh? 
And when an actor said that women are to be submissive because the Bible says she comes from the rib of the man, everyone cheered.  In the play, the woman told her husband that she wanted to go back to school. As a result, she was beaten.  In a discussion afterwards, some campers suggested that her approach be different.  The facilitator asked someone in the audience to demonstrate what that would look like, and when a female volunteer walked to the front of the room, the young men in the group started objecting, saying that another volunteer should be chose because the young woman who was picked was wearing pants-not a skirt, and that showed “no respect.”  She didn’t seem affected by these comments, and continued to demonstrate an alternative approach to requesting permission to go to school, that would be a little but more culturally appropriate. So what did she do?  She knelt down on her knees and softly pleaded to her husband grant her permission…
It seems as though “respect” to one’s husband in this culture is equivalent to being submissive and obedient.  When we approached the subject in smaller groups, there was a consensus amongst the young men that culturally, the woman is not to be superior.  If a woman completes a higher level of education, or earns more money than the man that she married, he will be left feeling insecure. 
“The more that she studies, the more men she gets... Then she will leave us.”
“The higher they go, the more undisciplined they become.” 
These examples of insecurity are often the root cause of domestic violence.

"Rafiki" theatre actors: (The women in front is an incredible activist, and facilitator, and has become my new favorite person).

To facilitate our self-esteem talk, I had invited my friend, and 2011 CNN hero of the year award winner, Sister Rosemary. Unfortunately, but not all that unusual, she had to back out at the last minute. So, upon recommendation, I invited another strong and successful woman to step in, who, to my surprise, decided to change the discussion topic and give a health class rather than a self-esteem talk. During our reflection session later in the day, my campers singled this session out as the worst of the day. Fail.
Thankfully, the day was rectified by our tribal dance rehearsal.  All it took for me to say was “you have one hour to plan and practice for a 15 minute tribal dance performance” -and they were off.  I don’t know if they were born dancing, but immediately they were in sync-in formation and in moves. Everyone knew exactly where to be and what to do, and I didn’t have to do anything.  I loved stepping back and watching them work together with such organization and enthusiasm… But I couldn’t stand still for long, and just had to join in. After all, it is the African rhythm that moves my soul.

Prior to Peace Camp, one of the eight professional psychologists I invited asked me if they were going to get paid.  Since we had lost our grant money, I wrote an email to all eight of them explaining our situation, and asked them if they would, in good faith, offer their services in exchange for transport costs, meals, and a camp shirt.  I then called them each individually to make sure they had received my email, and to ask them if they were still on board.  They all obliged.  So you can imagine my confusion (and fury) when they demanded compensation.  When I reiterated what we had repeatedly talked about before, they also reacted in fury, claiming to have received no such information… are you kidding me?!  At the end of such a long day, this made me feel crazy. Additionally, it was brought to our attention that one of the psychologists actually told one of the campers that women “incite rape” by the way we dress.  Sigh… maybe this whole “psychologist” thing wasn’t such a good idea after all. 
I missed the first half of the next “Rafiki” theatre’s play because I wanted to “bathe” and wash some clothes.  When I did arrive, I was immediately moved by, and immersed in their discussion about tribalism.  Since the LRA rebels abducted children and forced them to abduct and kill others (often from other tribes), many tribes have yet to reconcile. This has created a large divide amongst tribes in the North. Northerners in general are fiercely discriminated against as a whole people by the rest of the country.  They are commonly called “Kony” (in reference to the LRA leader, Joseph Kony), and taunted in school, labeled as killers.  Even when I found out I would be serving in the North, I can’t tell you how many non-Northerner Ugandans warned me about how “bad those people are,” and how they “kill each other.”  …I’ve actually never met kinder people who have been victimized more.  One of the goals of Peace Camp is to build unity amongst tribes, who have been divided by this war.  I think this play and the discussion that followed planted that seed.

And the day ended with a moving candlelight vigil.

1 comment: