UN-backed stage drama seeks to raise awareness against underage marriage

20 May 2012

UN-backed stage drama seeks to raise awareness against underage marriage

NANGARHAR - A United Nations-supported stage drama show that seeks to raise awareness against underage marriage attracted hundreds of Afghan men, women and elderly in the country’s eastern Laghman province last week.

The provincial Department of Women’s Affairs (DoWA) organized the drama show, presented by the Nangarhar Theatre Group, in Mehtarlam city with support from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Although the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, enacted in 2009, criminalizes child marriage in Afghanistan, it is still widespread in many parts of the country.

The eastern regional office of UNAMA has already staged the 30-minute long show in Jalalabad city of Nangarhar province and plans another show in Kunar province later this week.

The plot of the drama goes like this: a farmer takes loan to grow poppy. But, the Government authorities clear the poppy field and the local villagers strike a deal between the lender and the farmer forcing the latter to marry his 12-year-old daughter with the lender. Later, the farmer’s wife shows him a book of Afghan laws that criminalize underage marriage. The farmer and villagers ask the village elders to give advise and they together rectify the villagers’ decision. Then, everyone agrees with the farmer paying back the loan in installments.

Hanifa Safay, Women’s Affairs Director of Laghman province, thanked UNAMA for the support and expressed her hope that the international community would continue to support local efforts to raise awareness against social problems.

The director of the drama, Khater Khalil, said he had problems getting female actors to play in the drama. “We have very good male actors but we lack actresses. That’s why, several times, we are left with the only option of dressing males as females and act,” said Mr Khalil.

Bismillah (one name), 59, one of the spectators, said the drama reflected “the reality of our society”. “I think this is something which really happens in our society,” he said.

By UNAMA Jalalabad