Using Drama in Consultation Management

Meaningful participation is at the heart of the resettlement process. Over the years IDC has used Theatre for Development as a tool towards empowering Project Affected Persons (PAPs) through the various challenges presented within the resettlement consultation process. Drama speaks a universal language and enables even the most contentious issues to be played out using the ‘third person’ without arousing conflict.

Using Theatre for Development in the RAP Process – Nigeria

In Odi-Omi Kingdom in Ogun State a RAP was required for the development of an LNG project involving 1600 Project Affected Persons (PAPs) living in the swamps, the creek and on the side of the Atlantic Ocean. The predominant livelihoods were fishing and fish processing with some subsistence farming. Generally literacy levels were low and as the area is adjacent to the Niger Delta, their expectations of cash from the Project were high.

Following the protocols with the traditional leadership, it became evident that there was an expectation that when IDC entered the communities for the RAP consultation process, there would be demands for money simply to ‘engage’ with the people.

A community member acting as a witch-doctor in Tanzania 2012

The IDC team recruited a university lecturer in Theatre for Development from the same ethnic group to assist in communications with the people. A time and date was set up for the first entry into the largest community and we used drums, singing and dancing to make the announcement that we had arrived.

As people gathered in the community from the sound of the drums, they sat on the ground curious to know what we were doing, thus delaying the demand for monies. Once the community had gathered, a drama commenced, with the RAP interns acting out as communities demanding money from the consultants, sometimes abusive, sometime funny, but at the end of the drama, the message had been clearly given: We were independent consultants ensuring international best practice that would safeguard their rights during resettlement. As such, we would not pay entry fees, but we would be there for them and answer their questions and concerns truthfully. As the drama concluded, the formal introductions were provided and the consultation process was begun in earnest. Monies were never demanded from the IDC RAP team from any of the communities thereafter.

IDC often used drama to stimulate discussions on a variety of issues including appropriate house designs and maintenance, resettlement sites, livelihoods or roles and responsibilities. Drama was also used to overcome ‘rumour mongering’ and to capacity build representative groups on how to hold meetings, playing out the expectations of employers and to address specific gender, vulnerable or youth issues. It even became an effective tool to dissipate conflict within the community between the youth and their leaders.

Sometimes youths would join in the short introductory dramas as participants, either to raise their own questions with the drama or join in the music.  Ultimately it became an effective tool through which to raise new issues, build effective two-dialogue and certainly it ensured a high attendance at meetings.

A Truly Two-Way Dialogue – Tanzania

A charcoal maker in Tanzania dressed up as a woman during the play

Charcoal Producers

Whilst IDC was filming a documentary on Participatory Techniques in a RAP within the Tanzanian Project Site, we were requested by the charcoal producers to film them. On entering the camp, we were surprised that the charcoal producers themselves had developed three short dramas for us. Charcoal producers are largely marginalised from Tanzanian society and are deemed persona no grata for the environmental devastation caused by their livelihood. The plays they performed provided three heartfelt stories of how they ended up as charcoal producers to feed their families. Their own key message to us was that they were strong and hardworking and would become good employees of the Project.

Capacity Building Through Drama – Tanzania

The Host Community within the Tanzania project had asked about the environmental impacts and a series of discussions were held with the leadership. However, IDC quickly realised, that environmental concerns and a lack of knowledge was prevalent in the entire community. Thus, IDC approached the headmasters of both  primary and secondary school.

Following a short talk and a drama undertaken by the IDC RAP team, we challenged the Primary school children to spend their weekend being more observant of their community and the environmental issues they encountered and produce some plays to demonstrate what they had noticed and their own solutions to the issue.

The results were effective in particular because these dramas were shown to the whole school. It spread the message in a humorous and palatable way for school children and enabled them to consider how they themselves could make a ‘ difference’.

The effectiveness of community drama cannot be underestimated. It empowers the audience to see themselves from different perspectives and it proffers solutions to some untold concerns. Ultimately Theatre for Development is an essential tool during the RAP ensuring participation and empowering the people to determine their own destinies and drive it alongside the other process champions.