Dealing with violence is not always easy. Presentations, discussions and documentation can certainly play a part in preventing it. However, when working with children and young people suffering from exclusion, it is necessary to find interactive methods that speak to them and appeal to their senses and emotions. Omoana uses forum theatre in its projects. Derived from Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, this approach invites the people concerned to address situations of violence and explore solutions through play, in a participatory way. A scene recounting a situation that ends badly is presented to an audience. The members are then invited to replace one of the characters in the scene, which is replayed with the other actors improvising as realistically as possible what should happen next.

In Gulu, Uganda, children who live or work on the street present their own forum theatre scenes to the community to discuss ways of preventing violence against them. In Iraq, in the Mosul juvenile prison, children use forum theatre to discuss situations relating to their return to civilian life, and the possible discrimination they could face. This enables them to prepare for their reintegration by experiencing situations and exploring them through play. By using their senses, their ability to react appropriately will help to avoid a new cycle of violence. Other themes such as gender equality are also addressed, enabling the young people themselves to seek solutions that are often more progressive and innovative than what might be imagined in contexts where patriarchal norms prevail.

Social workers from Omoana’s partner organisations are trained in the approach and are monitored. Several workshops have already been held and the feedback has been positive. In fact, they go beyond just talking about human rights, enabling everyone to take part in a very practical discussion about living together, in order to preserve the dignity of children affected by violence.