PESHAWAR: Artists believe that street theatre can bring about a substantive in the behaviour of people if exploited in proper way.
“Public spaces can be used to raise awareness on a particular issue through live performance where people gather to get a message in an easy-to-understand language,” said Zardad Bulbul, a noted artist.
Keeping in view the importance of administration of anti-polio drops to children, a Pashto radio and TV played a significant role in countering the propaganda against the vaccine by launching street theatre to raise public awareness.
“Launched its awareness ‘polio project’ in 2015 to sensitise parents on the issue of lifetime disability caused by the poliovirus, the street theatre has remained most effective medium,” said Noorul Bashar Naveed, renowned playwright and script writer of the street theatre working for removing misconceptions about anti-polio vaccine.
Nawab Ali, a social media influencer from Bannu district, told this scribe that things were different before the street theatre performance in the area. After live performance of the street theatre, people came to know about the significance of administering anti-polio drops to their children, he added.
Playwright says live performance to raise awareness of social issues
He said that in early 2019, a theatrical performance was arranged in a local hujra in Bannu where a large number of parents and local elders turned up. Since then, no case of polio had surfaced in the entire locality comprising a population of over 45,000 with 15,000 children, he added.
Mr Naveed said that his team arranged more than 100 street theatres at public spaces from southern districts except Waziristan to northern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including tribal districts of Khyber, Bajaur and Momand.
Uzair Sherpao, who played a stock character in the street theatre, said that the drive had rounds of demand from different remote areas where reaching out became a challenge. “Still our crew got access to even families of polio victims and engaged locals to enjoy the live performance through comic gimmicks,” he added.
Mr Naveed said that in southern districts of the province, people were misguided by propaganda against anti-polio vaccine while in the extreme north most people were unaware of importance of the drops.
He said that live theatre performance picked up issues rooted in dark social background.
He said that street theatre cast huge impact on community and his team was trying to train local youth on new techniques for mass campaign.
Sajid Naseer, a resident of Swat, said that the 15-member crew of the street theatre so far had scaled success in the valley because refusal cases were on the decrease alongside public acceptance of anti-polio vaccine.
Gul Marjan Afridi, a resident of Khyber, said that people in tribal districts had great awareness due to theatrical performance compared to previous years as the live action brought to life a harsh reality in sugar-coated words and phrases of plays.
Mr Naveed said that the street theatre initiative could be used for raising awareness on several other social issues like intolerance, interfaith harmony, drugs abuse and girls’ education.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2023