Ananda Breed
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Across Kyrgyzstan, youth participants in IREX's Youth Theater for Peace (YTP) programme, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are using the Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT) methodology introduced in this toolkit to create community conversation about conflict issues. YTP introduces DCT to youth, educators, and institutions as a tool to start conversations and strengthen communities. IREX and its affiliates have implemented DCT-based projects in conflict-prone areas of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Somaliland, and Kenya. Since 2010, participants have collaborated with more than 50,000 audience members to talk about solutions to bullying in schools, labour migration, bride kidnapping, resource scarcity, and substance abuse. The idea is that, "when youth are engaged positively and given a voice, they can play vital roles in building peace. This toolkit is designed to introduce young people to an innovative theater methodology that creatively examines and transforms conflict. After working through the exercises in this manual, youth will be equipped to lead community dialogue as agents of positive change."

Specifically, DCT is a participatory theatre methodology in which youth develop short plays based on conflict issues and present them to their communities in interactive performances. This approach, influenced by the theory of Positive Youth Development, places youth at the forefront of change in their communities and forges cooperative and constructive relationships between youth and adults. "By creating opportunities for youth to share their voices and make meaningful contributions, YTP develops the skills and attitudes necessary for a lifetime of civic engagement and peace-building."

This toolkit guides facilitators in creating a custom workshop to introduce youth to the DCT methodology. The material can be adapted by the facilitator to be culturally or regionally specific and to integrate various themes important to the participant group. Many options for workshop modules - including lead-in activities, warm-up modules, main sessions, energisers, and closing activities - are included to allow the facilitator to craft workshops that best fit their local context and needs. After working through these exercises, participants are expected to be able to analyse conflicts in their communities using theatre exercises, create a Forum Theatre performance based on a community conflict issue, and engage with their local communities through DCT.

The toolkit is divided into two sections. Section I: Introduction to DCT Methodology and Facilitation includes hints on organising a DCT workshop, structuring exercises, and establishing group dynamics, as well as an illustration of good facilitation to create a safe, fun, and informative space for participants. Section II: DCT Activities and Theater Techniques includes a toolbox of DCT activities, arranged by type (warm-up, lead-in, main activity, energiser, or closing activity). Notations on sequencing indicate when certain exercises should be used to build upon earlier trust-building or skill-building work. A glossary of terms, bibliography of relevant works, and selection of handouts are found at the end of the manual.

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IREX website, July 6 2016.