Youth theatre empowers girls to challenge child marriage in Tajikistan

Fariouz Makhamova Photo credit: IREX

Anne Johnson writes about IREX’s work with young people in Tajikistan, using theatre to empower teenagers to tackle difficult topics such as domestic violence, changing gender roles in young families, girls’ education, and child marriage.

Last year, there were no girls enrolled past the 10th grade at Faroiz Makhamova’s high school in Chorku, Tajikistan. This year, there are 20.

In Faroiz’s rural district, only 42 percent of girls continue their studies after the 9th grade. Many marry early and quit school to take on household responsibilities. Just a year ago, Faroiz, too, was preparing to get married.

But when Faroiz was selected to take part in a summer camp held by the Youth Theater Peace program (YTP), she convinced her parents to delay her marriage until after the camp was over. At YTP camps, both boys and girls use theater to discuss challenges they face in their own communities. Many participants elect to tackle gender-related topics such as domestic violence, changing gender roles in young families, girls’ education, and child marriage.

At the YTP camp, Faroiz and her peers developed a play about child marriage that they later performed in Chorku. Faroiz elected to play the role of an unhappy bride, and the experience moved her deeply. The plot was typical of many girls’ experiences in Tajikistan: Faroiz’s character was forced to drop out of school to marry a man she had never met and struggled to build relationships with her in-laws after the marriage. While preparing for the performance, Faroiz also learned that the legal age for marriage in Tajikistan is 18. Upon returning home, she insisted that her parents allow her to continue her studies and asked them to delay her marriage again until she could complete high school and then a university degree.

Read the full article on the IREX website.