Sistren Theater Collective, Jamaica
Sistren Theater Collective in Jamaica uses performing arts as a way of engaging the community to confront violence against women.
Sistren Theater Collective in Jamaica uses performing arts as a way of engaging the community to confront violence against women. Sistren draws on a variety of art forms, such as poetry and dance, to build confidence and self-esteem among participants aged 7 to 17, while simultaneously instilling and encouraging appropriate values and attitudes. More recently, they introduced drumming, which generated increased interest and participation in their activities and messages. Performances have been held in each community involved in the initiative. In addition to involving youth in performance arts, Sistren works with the Hannah Town Women’s Drama Group to organize street theater sessions on various topics, such as Parenting and Gang Violence. The sessions aim to build social awareness around issues confronting the community. The sessions are followed by community discussions where residents express themselves on the issues highlighted in the street theater performances. Interestingly, Sistren found that though people were willing to express how the issues affected them personally, they were reluctant to comment on how the entire community was affected, particularly as it related to gang violence. Feedback from residents indicated that they felt that the street theatre increased their knowledge about local issues and provided them with a space for voicing their concerns about their communities. They then requested additional street theater sessions on other important but sensitive issues affecting them, namely domestic violence, sexual abuse and incest. Other initiatives include the creation of a music CD featuring the winners of a competition involving several communities. This project helped to bridge differences and build communication between communities and individuals from the community.