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Youth Theater for Peace  Youth Voices Preventing Conflict   and Changing Communities

The Youth Theater for   Peace Story in Kyrgyzstan


of program participants in Tajikistan and

Kyrgyzstan reported confidence in their ability to help to resolve interpersonal disagreements or conflicts in a peaceful way, compared to approximately 37% of comparison group respondents in Tajikistan and 55% in Kyrgyzstan.



of program participants in both

countries reported confidence in their ability to positively affect conflict situations in their community, compared to about 15% of comparison group respondents in Tajikistan and 31% in Kyrgyzstan.



of program participants in

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan reported having confidence in speaking in front of large audiences, compared to about 10% of comparison group respondents in Tajikistan and 17% in Kyrgyzstan.


12 of 12

focus group discussions with community

members who had seen a performance, respondents shared a belief that the Youth Theater for Peace methodology can have a positive effect on community relations as they relate to conflict.


lienated, disenfranchised young people can stoke the world’s violent conflicts. But when youth are engaged positively and given a voice, they play vital roles in building peace. The Youth Theater for Peace (YTP) program positions young people to lead community dialogue as agents of positive change. YTP promotes sustainable conflict prevention at the community level through a participatory theater methodology called Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT). IREX and its network partner IREX Europe have implemented DCT projects in conflict-prone areas of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Somaliland and Kenya. Since March 2010, the Youth Theater for Peace Kyrgyzstan program directly trained 294 youth and adults in conflict mitigation and Drama for Conflict Transformation. Building on this initial investment, 33 school-based drama clubs supported by the program reached more than 50,000 audience members. Performances brought youth voices of peace to a variety of conflict issues including border disputes, ethnic conflict, land and water resource distribution, girls education, gender-based violence, family conflict, school racketeering and migration. DCT incorporates local cultural traditions and starts with simple theater games that break the ice and encourage imagination and play. Once trust is established within the group, trained facilitators help participants share personal stories about conflict. Young people develop short plays about real-life conflict issues, such as corruption, migration, unemployment, ruralurban divides, girls’ education and ethnic tension. They perform the plays in their communities, engaging the audience to be part of the performance and contribute to the resolution. After the curtain falls, youth lead a discussion that encourages dialogue on conflict issues and brings divided groups into contact. YTP introduces DCT to youth, educators and institutions as a tool to start conversations and strengthen communities. Participants share DCT techniques to facilitate dialogue within their own communities as well as at the regional and national levels. By giving youth the opportunity to make a difference now, YTP develops the skills and attitudes necessary for a lifetime of civic engagement and peace building. The Youth Theater for Peace program is funded by USAID.


Communities Draw on   Youth to Lead Dialogue In the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, the YTP Drama Club and the local prosecutor’s office have partnered to address a pervasive problem: racketeering on school campuses. In many communities in Kyrgyzstan, youth “racketeers,” sometimes working with adult criminals, demand their classmates hand over money or cell phones. Refusing to do so can bring violent reprisals. Teachers say youth often try to conceal the pressure from adults and resolve the situation themselves, making things worse. Law enforcement officials in Tokmok turned to the local Drama Club to open a dialogue with young people about the racketeering problem. Since the partnership began, law enforcement representatives have attended all the Drama Club’s performances and engaged in discussions with youth. The Drama Club works with law enforcement to create plays based on real cases of juvenile crime. Jasmin Seitkanova, an eighth grade student in the Drama Club, said that YTP has energized the conversation with law enforcement around racketeering. Before the collaboration, “there would be some rather dry discussions where they gathered us and someone told us something,” she said. “Some of us were listening and some were just sitting there.” Ilyas Sidikov, a local law enforcement official, immediately noticed a difference when the Drama Club got involved. “The students find the discussion interesting and they add their own advice,” he said. “The young people correct situations that can lead to conflict. It was something I hadn’t seen in any theater.” Halima is confident the performances will make Tokmok’s schools safer from youth crime. “The most important thing is that people talk about it,” she said. “Together we can eliminate racketeering.”


The young people correct situations that can lead to conflict.”



Zarina’s Story Growing up in a small town, Zarina never seemed to fit in. Her mixed Dungan and Kyrgyz ethnic heritage set her apart from her peers and made her a target of ridicule. At 13, she felt so isolated she began to consider suicide. Now 17, Zarina speaks with poise and confidence. She’s performed in her school’s Youth Theater for Peace Drama Club for four years, facilitated community discussions about conflict and led her own drama workshops for other students. Through YTP, Zarina formed friendships with youth from other regions, religions and ethnicities. She shared her experiences with ethnic discrimination and realized that she wasn’t alone. She also learned that she and her peers had the power — and the responsibility — to lead positive change. “In any situation you can find a way out,” she says. “Everything depends on us.” In societies that emphasize learning from elders, youth voices are not always heard or fully valued. But by leading dialogue and conflict prevention activities at the national level, YTP participants like Zarina demonstrate the key roles young people play in building a more peaceful future. In recognition of her leadership, Zarina was selected to join an inter-regional, multi-ethnic troupe of young actors for a performance tour in Bishkek and Osh. The group highlighted the impact of national challenges, such as poverty, labor migration and a growing urban-rural divide, on the current generation of Kyrgyz youth. With support from the U.S. Institute of Peace, the troupe’s plays have reached hundreds of audience members and an additional 3 million viewers through a partnership with Kyrgyz television channels.


In any situation you   can find a way out, everything   depends on us.” 4

“This regional tour has made a significant contribution to the development of my personality,” Zarina says. “I became more self-confident and also appreciated a very simple principle: always treat others how you would like them treating you.”


Kyrgyz Drama Leaders   Establish Local Organization,   Ensure Sustainability Youth Theater for Peace leaders in 33 Drama Clubs in four regions around the country have reached more than 50,000 audience members with their performances. Through ongoing workshops, performance tours and trainings, they continue to impact thousands more. Tools like the YTP Sustainability Index for self-assessment of progress in fundraising, partnerships, and mastery of the DCT methodology help drama clubs to develop a plan for continuing theater programming with local partners and finances. Yet youth and adult participants are motivated to continue programming not just in their home communities but in cooperation with youth and adults across Kyrgyzstan. To establish a network and maintain momentum for regional programming over the long term, in 2013 YTP adult and youth leaders formed a chartered, officially registered NGO called the Union of Trainers and Consultants of Forum Theater. The group has members from four regions and is developing a long-term strategic plan to continue theater for peace activities in Kyrgyzstan. By partnering with local government and education officials, NGOs and international organizations such as UNICEF, the Union aims to expand the reach of Drama for Conflict Transformation and secure new funding and training opportunities. “All the Drama Clubs are informal and are not able to submit proposals to donors, but as the Union we can,” said Suhrob Ergashev, a Drama Club leader from Batken region. “Our aim is to show and tell about this methodology — that it works.” The Union’s Facebook page serves as a popular portal for Drama Clubs to share photographs and videos of performances, press clips, ideas and encouragement.



Our aim is to show and   tell about this methodology—  that it works.” 7

USAID began providing assistance to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in 1992. Since that time, the American people through USAID have provided nearly $1.5 billion in programs that assist the development of the economic sector, education and healthcare systems, and democratic institutions in Central Asia.

IREX is an international nonprofit organization providing thought leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally. We enable local individuals and institutions to build key elements of a vibrant society: quality education, independent media, and strong communities. To strengthen these sectors, our program activities also include conflict resolution, technology for development, gender, and youth. Founded in 1968, IREX has an annual portfolio of over $60 million and a staff of over 400 professionals worldwide. IREX employs field-tested methods and innovative uses of technologies to develop practical and locally-driven solutions with our partners in more than 100 countries.

This publication is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of IREX and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.


Youth Theater for Peace booklet  

The Youth Theater for Peace (YTP) program positions young people to lead community dialogue as agents of positive change. YTP promotes susta...

Youth Theater for Peace booklet  

The Youth Theater for Peace (YTP) program positions young people to lead community dialogue as agents of positive change. YTP promotes susta...