C4C project: “Questioning cultural ideals of femininity and modesty in Guinea”

In Guinea the widespread practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) contributes to physical and mental health problems. A persistent belief that FGM increases the chance of marriage, which helps to avoid economic and social exclusion, makes it difficult to let go of the practice.

Based on discussions we held with groups of women and girls in rural areas about cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, we want to work with them to start a more open discussion about the beliefs that girls are supposed to be "clean and beautiful" – and that removing parts of their anatomy would help.

  • We will develop a video showing how women define their identity, emphasizing the similarities between Guinean girls and their age-peers in western countries.
  • A next phase is the development of theatre productions in Guinea in close collaboration with Theatre & Reconciliation (https://www.theatrereconciliation.org). The action will permit to reach large audiences and aims to start up a process of change towards reinforced women’s health and self-esteem.

Culture 4 Change : Activities: Collecting relevant information in 4 different neighbourhoods together with the population where FGM is still common practice despite governmental measures to reduce the practice. This exercise will result in a video that will be used to generate discussion both at local and international level. Period: 6 months, Estimated budget: 30.000 euro

Théâtre & Réconciliation : Activities: Conducting a workshop with local actors and develop a theatre production together with the beneficiaries enabling people to reflect upon their own situation while increasing feelings of safety and resilience. Period: 6 months. Estimated budget: 30.000 euro

Potential donor: This project has been submitted for funding to the ‘Fondation Chanel’ https://www.fondationchanel.org/en/

 Any ideas, comments to make this project possible are welcome!


Prevention of Gender-Based Violence in Cambodia

In Cambodia, violence against women is alarming, with one in 89% of them not reporting it. More than half or all children in Cambodia and experience violence, and often based on gender.  

Khmer culture and tradition are often tasks as explanations for the gap between legislation or international standards and violence against women and girls. The challenge is to change the 'tradition' of harming women, and to convince people of the value of behavioral change. The project uses the strength of culture to transform 'traditional' beliefs and behavior patterns. The current National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women (NAPVAW) requires a Theory of Change built on what makes sense to ordinary men and women . Accordingly, the project poses that culture can and must be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

C4C works with Monash University and Buddhism for Health, a local Non-governmental Organization, implementing development activities in the Kingdom of Cambodia in a neutral, non-racist, non-religious, and not for profit basis. 


Workshop: Effectief communiceren; hoe doe ik dat?

Hoe communiceren we ? Waarom denken we soms dat anderen ons niet begrijpen en waarom is dat ook vaak zo? Wat horen anderen en wat willen we dat ze horen? Wat zijn de feiten en wat is het verhaal dat omtrent de feiten geconstrueerd wordt? Waarover praten we liever niet, hoe gaan we om met hiërarchie, hoe beïnvloedt dat onze (werk)relaties, en hoe kun je familie, collega’s en vrienden ‘de waarheid zeggen’ zonder te kwetsen?

 Angst en psychische ontreddering zijn groeiende fenomenen. In de jaren  voorafgaand aan de uitbraak van de coronacrisis vielen de tekenen dat de maatschappij op een psychologische crisis afstevende nauwelijks nog te ontkennen. Ziekteverlof door psychisch lijden en gebruik van psychofarmaca volgen een exponentiële curve; de diagnose ‘burn-out’ neemt epidemische vormen aan.

 Volgens de recente theorieën over stress en trauma, wordt de mentale schade die kan ontstaan na heftige gebeurtenissen en in tijden van crisis niet zozeer veroorzaakt door de gebeurtenissen op zichzelf maar door de manier waarop het lichaam energie gevangen houdt. In de nasleep van een psychologische en sociale stresstoestand, is een collaps van de immuniteit en de fysieke gezondheid vaak het gevolg.

 Fysieke afstand hoeft echter geen sociaal isolement te betekenen. Integendeel. Het welzijn van mensen die leven in moeilijke omstandigheden hangt voor een groot deel af van sociale interactie en communicatie. Er bestaat een duidelijke  relatie tussen fysieke pijn of psychosomatische symptomen enerzijds en sociaal of geestelijk lijden anderzijds.

 In de workshop “Effectief Communiceren” brengen we theorie in praktijk. Vanuit theoretische concepten (Levine, Porges, Omer e.a.) leren we aan de hand van alledaagse voorbeelden en oefeningen hoe de bewustwording van gedachten, emoties en gevoelens ervoor zorgt dat we weer verbinding kunnen maken met onszelf en met de wereld om ons heen (partners, collega’s, vrienden, familie). En vooral hoe we die verbinding communiceren, zonder belemmerd te worden door angst of onzekerheid – en met behoud van respect.

 Deze workshop richt zich niet alleen op een privé-context, maar is evenzeer gericht op toepassing in een professionele setting. Of we nu werken in zelfsturende teams, in het normale economische circuit (NEC), bij de overheid of in een zorginstelling: kunnen samenwerken vanuit wederzijds vertrouwen en verbinding, is essentieel.

Kosten: 400€, inclusief cursusmateriaal en drankjes tijdens de pauze

Door wie: Bibiane van Mierlo & Serge Nijskens Waar: Antwerpen Wanneer: nader te bepalen in najaar 2020

Inschrijvingen: Contacteer Bibiane via gsm: +32  485 566 520 of via mail: bibiane@centrumoost.be of contacteer Serge via gsm: +32 0476 424 263 of via mail: serge@centrumoost.be

Les Liaisons Joyeuses

In Brussels, many migrant women without legal status live in precarious situations while having no or limited access to health care and other basic services. Their access to descent care is mainly hampered by a lack of information, limited financial resources and poor experiences in the past . Médecins du Monde Belgium is implementing several projects with the objective not only to encourage the women to stay connected to the health system, but above all to give women the opportunity to re-gain control over their health, which includes their mental health and psychosocial well - being. Médecins du Monde has asked the support of C4C to help them in these efforts. The overall goal will be achieved with the help of Theatre & Reconciliation, a partner organization of Culture 4 Change.  The project took place between the end of March and June 2019.

Target group

Migrant women without legal status have been invited to participate in a theatre production.  Women from Guinea, Cameroun, Congo and Marocco, without legal identity, together with  students, patients  of a detox clinic and professional actors have been developing a theatre production under the leadership of Frédérique Lecomte, director of Theatre & Reconciliation. Rehearsals over a period of 5 weeks in small groups resulted in a final performance; some 65 actors played two times for an audience of some 500 people in total.

The role of Culture 4 Change within this specific context was to conduct a research action in order to

  • Determine whether the method of Theatre & Reconciliation indeed  results in feelings of more trust and psychosocial well-being among the target group that participates directly in the theatre production
  • Determine whether there are changes in perception among the audience : does the show indeed make members of the target group want to break out of their isolation and to communicate with others?

The answers to these two questions will help to determine whether this initiative is worth pursuing, and what needs to be adapted or changed in terms time and resources to extend efforts in the future.

Major results

Making use of theatre when working with groups of people that have faced severe adversities and stressful periods, resulting in feelings of frustration, withdrawal and isolation, is no new phenomenon and has proven to be successful in different contexts[1].  Theatre & Reconciliation specifically aims to empower vulnerable people and to restore social cohesion through conflict resolution and reconciliation[2]. Major result of this specific project are presently analyzed and documented. 

[1] Corcoran S. (2018)  In the Theatre of the Self: Reflections on the use of Drama in Treating Traumatic Stress Neurophysio and Rehab 1: 29-31; Dramatic Healing: The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed Musical Theatre Program for Incarcerated Girls . Meade Palidofsky &Bradley C. Stolbach ; Self-revelatory performance: A form of drama therapy and theatre Author: Emunah, Renée.Source: Drama Therapy Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 1 January 2015, pp. 71-85(15) Publisher: Intellect  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/dtr.1.1.71_1; Narrating, Witnessing, and Healing Trauma in Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive; https://doi.org/10.3138/md.53.1.103  Published Online: April 27, 2010 ; Gay Morris (2015) Special issue on applied theatre healing and trauma, South African Theatre Journal, 28:1, 1-3, DOI: 10.1080/10137548.2015.1011860; Barnes, H. and Coetzee, M.-H., eds. 2014. Applied drama/theatre as social intervention in conflict and post-conflict contexts. Newcastle on Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Lan, D., 1990. Desire and other plays. London: Faber and Faber.

Nebe, W., 2013. Welcome note. In: 2013 Drama for Life Africa Research Conference: the unfinished business of truth and reconciliation: arts, trauma and healing [Programme]. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand, 2–3.

[2] Theatre & Reconciliation (https://www.theatrereconciliation.org) is a Belgium non-profit organization that organizes theatre workshops and develops theatre productions with and for communities that are torn apart as a result of violence and conflict; marginalized individuals, child soldiers, detainees, victims of torture, patients in therapeutic settings, asylum seekers, victims of sexual violence. See: Théâtre et Réconciliation,  méthode pour une pratique théâtrale dans les zones de conflit

Theatre er & Reconciliation is active in Belgium and other countries such as Congo, Burundi and Rwanda

[3] See the extensive work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application.