(English) Social theatre in Sumhat – discussing the issue of suicide among young people in Kyrgyzstan

As you can read about here and here, Novi Ritm’s 1325-team is currently spending most of its time traveling around the regions and towns where we’ve previously held trainings, in order to supervice and document the third and last step of the project, which is: facilitating peace initiatives and regional network working together with issues relating to UNSCR 1325. From the second step of the project: awareness raising and knowledge building activities in the three regions of Osh, Batken and Jalal-Abad, participants from nine of the schools that we’ve visited have been granted money for coming up with and implementing their own mini-project in connection to UNSCR 1325.

This last Friday we went to Sumhat in the Jalal-Abad region, where one of the mini-project working groups had organized a social theatre and information campaign about suicide among youth for their school and village. Once we arrived, we were told that in the fall of 2016 two suicides (though not related) committed by teenagers had hit the village and that this theme had been chosen in order to highlight the vulnerable situation of young people in Kyrgyzstan today.


For those not familiar with the concept of social theatre, it is a kind of interactive teaching exercise that is designed to make you reflect on what you’re witnessing – usually some kind of social issue or moral dilemma – and then be able to change it. This is done by playing the same senario or sketch two times in a row: the first round the audience is watching passively, while during the second round being encouraged to intervene by pausing a specific scene or dialogue that they wish to change. They are then invited up on to the stage, where they take over the part of one of the actors in order to change the senario.

As the theme for this social theatre was suicide among young people in Kyrgyzstan, the scenes was centred on a young boy facing different kinds of problems and hardships in his life, ultimately leading up to him committing suicide.

Among the issued raised were parents who migrate to Russia for work, leaving their kids to be raised by their grandparents – who might be to old to take care of them properly. Another issue was bribing and blackmailing among teenagers – how older boys sometimes beat up younger boys if they don’t give them money. Another problem was being forced to work on the family land or doing household chores to the extent that you don’t have time to your homework or even go to school.

During the second round both teachers and students in the audience volunteered to change the senario, suggesting that parents should think about different economical options before migrating, that teachers to some degree should be held accountable for their students health and that kids should try and tell their parents about bullies.

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After finishing up the social theatre, the organizers had prepared a big truck to drive around the village, mainly trying to gather the older generation, asking them about their opinions on what kind of problems the community is facing in terms of young people life and how to handle kids who are being mistreated or are thinking about committing suicide.

All in all, it was so inspiring and fun to be able to participate in a well coordinated day that clearly was inspired by what the organizers had learned during out previous trainings.


Written by: Amanda Sonesson, based in Osh, Kyrgyzstan