Pro Public mutually renewed its cooperation agreement with CSSP – Berlin Center for Integrative Mediation, Berlin, Germany by extending the project ‘EnActing Dialogue: Supporting Reconciliation through Playback Theatre’ for the duration of one more year (January to December 2017). The project follows a bottom-up reconciliation strategy to complement that national transitional justice process in Nepal. Building upon the project results of 2015 and 2016, it strengthens local capacities for theatre-facilitated dialogue in communities where high numbers of ex-combatants have settled. As recommended by the external evaluation of 2016, the project of 2017 will stay in the same 6 districts and continue its focus on capacities enhancement and multiplication.
The project follows a mixed approach of reaching more people and key people for different goals. It also tries to link achievements from 2015 and 2016, so that they can foster the future sustainability of the work. In the first place the project’s focuses on reaching a broad audience (more people) to aim for individual healing and community level reconciliation. On the other hand it also reaches out to key people on policy level (key actors 3 & 4) with the goal to influence the socio-political level and the shape of structures that favour reconciliation, healing and sustainable peace. The dialogue facilitators (key actors 2) are partly considered as key people in the community. They don’t necessarily have positions of influence, but as they themselves are especially challenged from the armed conflict time, their reconciliation attempts do have a role model character for others.
In 2015 and 2016, the dialogue facilitators already demonstrated their capabilities to create extraordinary theatre spaces for sharing and overcoming pain from silenced experiences of. The close support of theatre artists (key actors 1) coming from outside the community as well as the meetings with key stakeholders from the communities (key actors 3) were crucial benefits to the programme. Monitoring results of 2016 have shown that 90% of the performances included stories from the armed conflict (combating/fighting, torture, killings and disappearance) and literally every performance included stories that were connected to the wider root causes of the conflict (such as poverty, domestic violence, gender and caste discrimination etc.). Audience members expressed their relief of being able to share as well as of seeing their own or similar experiences of others being transformed into movement, music or poetry.
To work towards the sustainability of the initiated process, it is crucial to enhance and widen the achieved skills of the key actors 1 & 2. Working with Playback Theatre over time is a challenging process of individual growth and self-reflection. Hence, only if the key actors 1 & 2 are able to respond to the audiences’ needs, the dialogue work can develop its full potential. The major contribution of working with theatre art is that the experiences of the audiences go beyond their cognitive understanding. They recreate emotional connections and discover human communalities across the dividing lines of the community.
Advanced level trainings and regular backstopping during the multiplication will strengthen the quality of the dialogue events. Experiences from 2016 have shown that working with a high number of traumatic stories, the dialogue facilitators urgently need spaces for continuous backstopping and for exchange to keep their own balance. Furthermore, it is important to stay in contact with key actors 3 in order to guarantee local ownership for the smooth implementation of the project and also to help the impact spread beyond the immediate community level.
In order to reach out to the national level, a selection of extraordinary stories shared during the theatre-facilitated dialogue events will be documented (photos and creative story writing). Out of this collection a publication and a photo exhibition will be presented and launched to an audience of policy makers and peace workers in Kathmandu (key actors 4). The goal is to maintain the dialogue on reconciliation between grassroots experiences and the national level. This will set a clear sign against political tendency of silencing people’s experiences and legitimating impunity. In addition, it will promote the people’s needs for truth, acknowledgment and healing as well as the integration of creative approaches into the process of reconciliation and peacebuilding.