Tables are turned on Deo and he experiences the wrath of pregnancy Source: Public Health Ambassadors Uganda

In October 2018, a team of young men and women staged a reproductive health play dubbed “The Twist”, a three-day theatre performance that treated many with a blend of entertainment and education. This is not something that you come across often since, to many, theatre is usually for passing time and  entertainment.

Why the play?

The Twist is a play about Sexual Reproductive Health and Family Planning that seeks to address social issues such as gender violence, and promote male involvement in Family Planning. It’s  written by Nargis Shiraz (a women deliver young leader) and produced by Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU). The Twist is a drama tailored to reflect cultural norms, gender roles, poverty, and the burden of planning for children. The play is staged in rural-urban Uganda and revolves around a man called Deo and his immediate family and close friends.

We meet Deo - a man that wants a son, Bond - the suave ladies’ man, and Tembo - the best mechanic at the village town garage who believes his Ugandan parents were meant to be Jamaican.

The question is, what would happen if the tables were turned in a typical African home? Will ‘The Twist’ change society’s norms? The play showcases a cocktail of feelings and mixed reactions when the man who was once a celebrated mechanic in the garage, becomes a stay at home dad when his wife falls pregnant unexpectedly and she becomes the sole bread winner.

Male involvement in family planning is a key pillar in the promotion of reproductive health. Source: Public Health Ambassadors Uganda

The project was aimed at increasing the adoption of safer sexual behavioral practices among young people, especially young women and girls. It also aimed to create awareness of the underlying social, cultural, gender-based and other structural barriers to access and utilisation of family planning services among young people in Uganda. We invited students from various secondary schools and communities and had a dialogue session that involved a diverse spectrum of students, policy makers and persons with experience in gender work.

There was a total of five productions of “The Twist” staged at the National Theatre. All shows were staged within three days in October, with a total of 361 people in the audience. Online promotion was complimented with one live TV talk show appearance on NBS TV, as well as three radio talk shows on Galaxy FM, Simba FM, and CBS FM. 

Reach and impact of the production

The production was successfully executed, the actors were amazing, the scenes were well-presented and the message was well communicated. The audience applauded the production, which was executed in English, save for a few lines spoken by some actors in Luganda (the local language). 361 people watched the production live, including young people from secondary schools and youth-led organisations.

In set: Maama Bena is seen fleeing the wrath of Deo her husband. Source: Public Health Ambassadors Uganda

Two intergenerational dialogues were conducted during the production, targeting various stakeholders and partners. These were done at the end of each production and this provided an opportunity for participants and other stakeholders to reflect and share experiences and lessons or recommendations as observed from the production. The dialogues expounded on the theme “If traditional gender roles were changed, would that change people's attitude towards SRHR?” The dialogue featured representatives of young people in secondary schools, youth-led organisations, universities, NGOs, CSOs, and the Ministry of Health.

Participants sharing their ideas during the dialogue session after the play. Source: Public Health Ambassadors Uganda

The production was also supported by other partners such as Uganda Health Marketing Group, Marie Stopes Uganda, AIDS Health Care Foundation – Uganda Cares, Quicket, PSI Uganda, Bridge Films, and Uganda National Cultural Center.

Future steps

PHAU plans to make a TV production that will be used as an edu-tainment tool to engage different communities. With support from our partners, Bridge Films, we recorded the entire production which will later be produced on CDs and translated into local languages. These CDs will be disseminated in schools and communities as a tool for awareness creation and advocacy on issues of gender roles and SRHR in Uganda.  

 

 

Patrick Segawa is an advocate and a Women Deliver Young Leader. The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program is a catalyst for rising advocates, providing access to small grants, training, a digital university, speaking opportunities, and networking. Since 2010, a total of 700 young people from 138 countries have increased their impact through the award-winning program so far. Many will be coming together in Vancouver this June for Women Deliver 2019, the world’s largest conference on gender equality. This piece was produced in partnership between Women Deliver and Wellbeing for Women.

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