Drama in the Village
Dramas at the end of a training are definitely my favorite part of a day like this in the village. It’s one thing for a group of adolescent girls to listen respectfully during a presentation about how to stay healthy, and it’s always great when they ask important questions. But when the girls come together and bring the lessons to life, that’s when I know that the teachings will stick. Today, we spent the morning talking about why women get periods, how they get pregnant, and how they can stay safe from infections. Groups of girls walked from villages up to 2 hours away, invited by chiefs and escorted by mentors who accompanied them at the training and prepared a nice meal for them in the middle of the day. 150 young women were selected to attend today’s training, but in the end, 179 came. Most of the teaching and questions happened in the morning. Before lunch, Thoko and I divided the girls up into eight groups and assigned them topics for their dramas. When we came back from eating, that’s when the magic happened.
The first group’s topic is, “how to explain what you have learned here to a younger girl”. They set the stage in a family home. As a girl comes in after staying out late with boys, her mother reprimands her in front of her siblings. “You’re not a little girl anymore. Don’t you know you can get pregnant at any time?” The audience still giggles uncomfortably at the mention of periods and pregnancy, even though we’re in our seventh hour of discussing these personal issues. The next group prepares a skit with a group of girls talking about personal hygeine. One girl complains that she doesn’t have money for painkillers or pads while her friends group up around her. “Pads are for city women” her friend advises. “Here is what we use in the village.” Her other friends gather around and talk to her about ways to help with her bleeding and cramps, about exercise, drinking plenty of water, and using warm compresses. I love that these girls are acting out how they will be advising their friends and sisters in the future.
One group acts out an elaborate two-part story which starts with a girl running off from her friends to cling onto a guy. Later, the girl has to bring the guy to the clinic to discuss treatment for infections. A final group, tasked with the topic, “what to do if a man is bothering you,” brought the group to laughs and tears with a sketch about how a man (acted by one of the conference participants, she was wearing a long skirt but you could tell she was a man because of the way she sauntered around and talked with a low voice) tries to proposition a girl by offering her money. Her friends then come around her and tell her that they will help her if she needs money, but she shouldn’t risk her health and her future giving this man what he asks for. The group of girls then chase off the man together. The day ends on these lighthearted notes, as the girls show that they have internalized the teachings about their health and their value as women, and with a modeling of how they will spread the news and hopefully change some of the culture in their villages. But I know today is only a beginning. One of the women who broght girls from a village farther away says, “I’ve never heard these things discussed in church before.” She wants to hold a training next month in her own village; as a pastor’s wife she is starting to see how the church can help these women find value and community, rather than blaming them for conduct which probably wasn’t their idea in the first place. Thoko plans to build community needlework groups with these girls and their mentors, so that they can continue these important conversations and feel that they have a place to belong. I’ve been working to find ways to put these teachings into a Chichewa booklet from which any woman can teach, since I don’t want my physical presence to be the limiting factor for girls to get this training.
This month, please continue joining us in prayer for village trainings and their follow-up.
Thank you for your prayers and support, - Christina + Greg