Breaking the Silence: Using theatre to address gender-based violence and alcohol abuse in Serbia

Publicerat 2024-07-11

In 2023, 28 women were tragically killed in Serbia due to gender-based violence linked to excessive alcohol (as reported by the media). In response to this, IOGT-NTO Movement in partnership with Center for Youth Work (CZOR), prepared program with ’theatre of the oppressed’ methodology  to enhance knowledge and skills on alcohol-related issues to the community. The methodology encourages not only educational process during creation of the play, but also interaction with the audience and putting them in actor’s roles, to ‘’live’’ through the situation and try to find a solution to the problem presented. 

”Reci” development

The play, called ”Reci’’ (”Say’’) was developed by high school students from Novi Sad and was performed 6 times in Novi Sad during 2023, while additional performances in high schools have already been booked for 2024. The play gained great popularity among both young people, including vulnerable young people, and their parents. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, we had to limit the number of people in the audience, but the high demand required 3 times more performances than originally planned. 

When starting to work on the play, we enlisted the help of noted actress and drama pedagogist, Sonja Leštar, who helped youth workers learn how to use drama techniques when working with young people. To help young people/actors to better understand the issue and connection of gender-based violence and alcohol harm, the youth workers conducted several workshops on these topics, while motivating young people to think about how to use the information they’ve acquired, as well as their critical thinking skills, to create a play with which they could raise awareness of their peers and families on these issues. 

 Real-life situations portrayed

The created scenes portrayed various situations of violence against women, including how gender roles are shaped and imposed on girls in Serbia from an early age, and the role alcohol plays in this issue. Young people who watched the play emphasized that the situations portrayed aren’t uncommon in their lives – they see them all the time but didn’t really understand that these situations actually represent violence.

The parents, on the other hand, weren’t aware how often their children go through some of these situations and how these are perceived and understood by young people. Besides watching the play and actively trying to change the situations, the interaction between the audience themselves helped not only raise awareness of all groups on these issues, but it also broke down the age gap and helped build solidarity and understanding between parents and youth. 

In Conclusion

Besides learning how to use this methodology in the future, we have acquired an insight in some other issues young people detect, which are connected to alcohol harm, and which could be addressed using ‘’theatre of the oppressed’’, such as violence, discrimination and relationships.