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Sickle Cell Awareness by Forum Theater

Aiya, bataita!!!

Posted on May 29, 2019

As one of our education initiatives, the Sickle Cell Team and Creating Possibilities Nepal's ( CP Nepal) staffs held ‘forum theatres’ in the community – educational plays held outdoors to convey key information about sickle cell disease (SCD).

After hours of arduous rehearsals in the sweltering heat, our team and the CP staff felt stage ready for what would be the performance of a lifetime. Keegan finally had his red carpet debut, as the lead role in the play.

The Sickle Cell Team and CP Nepal Staff getting ready to start the first forum theatre in front of the local rural municipality office. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

The forum theater told the story of a family of five going through the screening, diagnosis and treatment process of SCD in Nepal. It incorporated facts about SCD, some comedy, and a light-hearted tone to keep the crowd engaged. CP staff members played parents both with sickle cell trait, while Keegan, Lisa, and Iulia played the children, with sickle cell disease, normal, and sickle cell trait, respectively. We learned a few key Tharu phrases for the play, with a fan favourite being Keegan’s high pitched delivery of “Aiya! Bataita!” (which means “Ouch! Pain!”) when getting blood drawn for the screening and diagnosis.

  • The first scene of the play. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

  • Shyam, Deepa, Keegan, Lisa and Iulia playing a family getting screened for SCD. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

Keegan yelling out his catchphrase, “Aiya, bataita!!!” as he acts out getting his blood drawn while his mother, Deepa, comforts him. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

Traditionally, music and dancing precede these forum theatres to gather an audience. These forum theaters are set up in open public spaces, such as in front of convenience stores or local municipalities, with portable speakers, microphones, props, and lawn furniture. Our dancing drew laughs, cheers, and a lot of strange looks as our Canadian rhythm (or lack thereof!) did not compare to the skill of Nepalese dancers. The music was a mixture of popular Nepali tunes, such as “Salko Paat” and some North American songs like “the Macarena”.

Deepa showing off her beautiful dance moves to help us gather an audience. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

For our second production, we wisely recruited CP’s “Hero Girls,” who had much better dance moves than any of us. The Hero Girls training course aims at building confidence and self-esteem through focusing on three aspects: self-development, entrepreneurship, and leadership. It was clear how empowered and confident these girls felt, as they danced and sang freely to Nepali music, and told us about themselves and their aspirations. Through our interaction with them, their level of education was evident and they were some of the best English speakers in Dang. We were all inspired by these clever and confident young women, who undoubtedly will become leaders among their peers and in their communities.

  • Our team dancing with the Hero Girls. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

  • Heyyyy, Macarena! Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

Iulia and Keegan as the two children with sickle cell trait, getting a diagnostic test along with their parents, Deepa and Shyam. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

  • Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

  • Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

Our team and the CP staff all had a lot of fun holding these forum theatres, and we were amazed at the number of people that came out to watch. The music and dancing that preceded the theatres immediately gathered an audience, with people on scooters even pulling over to see what was going on. We were happy to see that the crowd stuck through the entire play, and the audience’s smiles and laughter throughout reassured us that they were engaged. We hope that these plays increased awareness and understanding of SCD in these communities. Moreover, we are optimistic that those who attended the theatres will share their new knowledge of SCD with their friends and family members and that this will ultimately lead to more people getting screened.

The SCD Team, CP Staff and the audience at one of our forum theatres. Photo courtesy of CP Nepal.

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