The leader of the local NGO network told our team, “the impossible is occurring through IJM’s initiative.” Our advocacy department has been around for less than two years and their work is key to creating structural transformation by increasing public awareness through several mediums, some being, print media, engaging the public through music, and most recently, by educating the grassroots community through street play performances.
(Team playing a game with community prior to the performance)
After the performance IJM staff discussed the street play which portrays the story of a man who was in bondage but was unaware of it until he had a dream that his elders visited him to tell him he was in a terrible situation. The interactive discussion was a time for the audience to discuss the impact of the play, to garner case leads, but even more so, to prevent bondage from occurring by empowering them with the knowledge of their rights and stirring a concern for their neighbors to spread the word to them also. The staff member was told by many people in one particular village “after all these years we have never received this message in our village.”
Mesmerized by the local music and dance of the play, the audience was entertained and educated! Even people who are former bonded laborers came to watch the play! One man brought his release certificate and showed it to his peers and said, “whenever people question [me], [I] just show it to them and nobody bothers [me].”
For one of the performances 75 people attended along with the RDO, the councillor of the village, and political party leaders. The RDO introduced the play with a speech and also gave an interview to our documentation team. The people are thrilled to see the RDO visiting their village!
Stephen, the community relations intern said, “After another performance a few case leads were recorded. In one of the case leads individuals reported that five families from their village had gone to work in a brick kiln nearby. Besides this case lead, another case was referred to the Revenue District*. In this case, 12 families are currently working in a rice mill* near a village where the team had previously performed. An IJM staff member was able to speak to an individual who is currently one of the bounded labourers in this situation. The individual agreed to come from the rice mill to speak with us about his options during the harvest season in January.”
The following is an interview with two team members, Pascal and Praveen:
Q: How have the performances gone so far? “In each performance we try and understand the audience we are presenting to as we begin our performance. We try to highlight different things based on our audience. We really try and get people close to the drama and personalize the issue for them.”
Q: What are some specific highlights from the campaign? “This week we performed a play in a village with heavy rain. People got soaked, but not one person left the performance. We even told the people that we could cancel the show due to the downpour, but the community begged us to continue. It was a huge encouragement to see the people really wanting to see the performance. Another highlight is seeing the peoples’ reaction to our performances. Many people leave in tears because they are so moved by the performance.”
Q: What are some stories you have from the campaign? “The performance we did in the main town* was a great success. Most of the performances we do are in small villages and the people come because they are interested and there is not much else to do. This performance was in the main town though and there was a lot going on around it. Still though, around 100 people came to the performance and they enjoyed it very much.”
Q: What has the community reaction and response been to your performances? “The reaction of the community has been very positive. There has been a 100% positive response. Each village is involved in different ways. We have noticed there is a difference in the level of the response depending on class. The high class listens and takes in the message without a lot of reaction. The other classes listen, take in the message, and want to do something about bonded labour.”
Q: Do you have any other comments about the performances? “We are very happy that we are being used to help end bonded labour. We are very happy that we are involved in solving this issue.”
I was in awe each time I heard a report from Advocacy on how the campaign was progressing. Within just a few performances they had already exceeded all their goals, especially pertaining to the number of case leads; it’s a great time to be working in this office to witness the immense favor our staff has with the local community and authorities and the success of so many events!
|Week||# of Performances||# of Case Leads||Attendees||Media Presence|
Specific names of locations and businesses have been changed or left out for the protection of the vulnerable population.*
Due credit for this post goes to Stephen who updated the field office with the progress of the campaign via email. Thanks, Stephen!