Magnet Theatre Project
By working within communities in Siaya County, the Magnet Theatre Project was envisaged to bring together young people to access and contribute to the dialogue about HIV, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and to demand instigation and utilisation of the services related to HIV/SRHR.
Theatre is a highly effective means of effectively mobilising and teaching large groups of people in a short period of time.
Young people are able to make informed choices when they are provided with the right information, in the right way and at the right time, and there is no better way than through theatre.
Magnet Theatre is a form of community theatre that typically takes place in outdoor, public spaces
Its intervention is designed to entertain, educate and involve audience members in the action, encouraging the kind of participation and reflection that is key to sustained behaviour change.
The hour-long performances explore issues affecting a community and encourage discussion and problem solving with audience members. The actors perform a drama that presents a dilemma based on community issues. The audience participates by offering suggestions to the characters or by taking the place of an actor and acting out solutions to the dilemma.
Magnet Theatre encourages audience members to discuss solutions and allows them to experiment in a safe environment, to encourage individual and community-wide change.
Magnet Theatre is different from other forms of community theatre because it targets and attracts a specific and repeat audience, takes place at a regular time at a specific venue, and serves as a forum for magnification of behaviour change.
Magnet Theatre has produced some of Mildmay Kenya’s most visible examples of behaviour change.
More to be done:
The “KAA RADA KUWA SMARTTA” programme (an urban dialect expression meaning be careful, be wise) is an educational theatre project targeting Kenyan young people in Siaya County.
The project uses performances and community theatre to raise awareness and understanding of sex, sexuality and HIV by retelling the true stories of young people. Through this engagement, we help children, young people, and their families to access HIV testing, treatment and sexual health services. The performances will promote diversity, compassion and understanding, and encourage networking between young people to advocate for better HIV and SRHR in their area.
Through theatre, we want to inspire young people to take action and speak up about barriers to HIV prevention, care and treatment in Siaya county.
During the project period, we reached over 16,000 young people with HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights information and services through the integrated community outreaches.
Several activities were arranged during outreach to saturate the young people with as much information as possible as well as ensure that they were linked to the services based on need.
There remains the need to reach more young people through theatre and to include governance and its effect on service delivery.
If young people cannot relate governance and its effect on access to quality healthcare, education or employment
opportunities, then the chance to see an empowered generation will be lost.
Besides this project, there is little investment by the government in the arts, whether visual or performing arts.
Snapshot of activities that support the Magnet Theatre Project:
We conducted 5-day Magnet Theatre training for 10 volunteer young people who have been supporting the outreach sessions. The young people are meant to mentor their peers who will in turn volunteer to conduct edutainment sessions at community level to mobilise young people to access RH/HIV information and services.
We conducted two Magnet Theatre sessions to support the mobilisation of young people to attend World AIDS Day. This yielded 215 young people attending, 49 girls accessing HPV vaccine, 32 were screened for cervical cancer, 15 accessed family planning services and 102 accessed HIV testing services.
We conducted a 2-day Sensitisation Workshop for 15 youth group leaders on HIV prevention, care and treatment so that they give the correct information whilst mentoring their teams for theatre.
We had a meeting with the Sub-County Health Management Teams to discuss program progress and challenges to future plans. This also provided a forum to make some members understand how they could use Magnet Theatre for health promotion in their various departments.
We conducted a one-day quarterly youth group leaders workshop for 10 leaders to reflect on the successes and mitigation of challenges in this programme.
Location of Siaya County (click to enlarge)
Siaya county in Kenya is a poor region that falls far behind the national progress made in fighting HIV. The burden of HIV in Siaya stands at 24.8%. In the province where Siaya County is located, 6.2% of youth aged 15-24 are living with HIV. This is three-times higher than the national youth HIV prevalence rate.
We are grateful to the Make a Difference (MAD) Trust for supporting this project in 2019
Thanks to this support, we have additionally been able to incorporate music, drama, poetry and other project activities which have made them more vibrant.
The health promotion department of the Ministry of Health has engaged with the project and learned better ways to reach youth. “This project you are doing in the village, has made it easy for my officers to give health talks in a very simple and fun way” Says Chieng’, the County Health Promotion Officer in Siaya County.
Because of MAD Trust funding, Mildmay has been invited by several youth groups to mentor their peers and we have reached 50 more young people through 'Trainers of Trainees' than the project originally envisaged.
Any support will go a long way in sustaining the gains brought about by the Magnet Theatre Project. Even though we have been able to contribute to the fall in new HIV infections in Siaya County, to sustain these gains, we need keep the project going year after year.