Using interactive theatre and participatory video techniques to prompt community participation and social mobilization

The Interactive Resource Center (IRC) has created a strong network of grassroots theater groups as an alternate system of community participation and social dialogue. The essence of IRCs work is to use interactive theater to trigger community dialogue through direct community participation on human rights issues.

IRC has been employing community participation techniques, particularly interactive theatre, to build social awareness and communal participation in issues since 2000. IRC’s proof of capacity to move others to take action is demonstrated by the fact that it has performed in more than 87 districts of Pakistan and, in the process, trained approximately 60 gender balanced interactive theatre groups and 600 activists at the grassroots.

IRC’s use of interactive theater has resulted in a substantive decrease in human rights violations in a number of districts. Among other successful cases, IRC’s taking up of the bonded labor issue in the interior Sindh province led to the creation of a special committee to address the issue.

IRCs experience with the grassroots has shown that communities are largely denied the privilege of interacting and communicating. Through interactive theatre, particularly the downtrodden and oppressed gain access to a medium through which they can air their views and communicate with the levels of society that have burdened them. Such a dialogue provides the means for oppressed communities to direct their communications to not only the oppressor but also the wider community.  As a result, ways for mutual reconciliation and communal uplift have surfaced.

IRC trains gender balanced groups. More often than not, core members of the group have suffered from the human rights violations being depicted in the interactive theatre scenarios and tell their true stories before their own communities. Once the story of oppression is performed on stage, members from the audience are asked if they agree with the way things have been done. Since the stories involve human rights violations, people do not always agree. Audience members are asked to come on stage and prove their case. In this way community participation is encouraged to help find solutions to problems afflicting their own communities. Success from this interactive theatre process has won IRC acclaim both at home and abroad.

IRC’s initiative and experience provides a valuable tactic for others to glean lessons and ideas. IRC has already started making a difference in marginalized communities where problems have been prevalent for more than fifty years.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.