Guest Post: Using interactive theater to promote positive behavior change in rural Pakistan

The theme of the Global Handwashing Day Interactive Theater was decision-making and actionStudents learned about handwashing and other positive behaviors through an Interactive Theater approach By Zakia Malik, Rural Education and Economic Development Society (REEDS)

Lecture-style classroom approaches can benefit some learners. However, in areas where literacy is low, or with audiences who don’t learn well in “traditional” settings, this conventional training isn’t as effective. To respond to the needs of communities in the Rahim Yar Khan district of Pakistan—where learners are primarily farmers and laborers—we have adopted an Interactive Theater approach with some Project WET activities. Our goal is to make our Water Stewardship programs more inclusive.

More than 800 people (602 children, 57 Teachers and 189 farm workers) have benefited from this intervention so far. Role-play allows our volunteer REEDS Water Promoters to educate different groups in one setting while promoting change in creative and engaging ways that encourage efficient and wise use of water. The volunteers write and perform a play reflecting the water and health problems that the community faces, in the local language. REEDS facilitators train the volunteers and work with them to ensure that they understand the community’s specific problems and can develop an appropriate local storyline for the play.

The plays portray positive behaviors in an entertaining way that helps children remember the issues and builds their interest in participating in community mobilizations to change water use and WASH practices for the better. REEDS volunteers align the role play with the school curriculum, since WASH (Paani or Sehat) is one of the core units covered, by demonstrating practices such as handwashing and safe water handling and treatment.

More than 800 people have benefited from REEDS Interactive Theater method of learningMore than 800 people have benefited from REEDS Interactive Theater method of learning This interactive Theater approach provided a new tool for Global Handwashing Day, which was observed on October 15th. REEDS Water Promoters visited five middle schools, demonstrating the simple steps in washing hands and staying healthy to children and teachers.

Handwashing is an important part of keeping food safe, preventing diseases, and helping children grow strong. Maintaining appealing places for people to wash their hands in households, schools and communities was also emphasized, because when children have access to safe water, soap and toilets, they are more likely to stay healthy and stay in school.

REEDS is a Project WET partner in Pakistan. Their work with tree-planting and other innovative ways of working toward the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 6 was leatured on the Water Education Blog in May. Project WET connected with REEDS at last year's Alliance for Water Stewardship Global Water Stewardship Forum. Project WET will again be in Edinburgh at the end of October for the 2018 event

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