The BARKA Foundation, a UN-affiliated NGO based in the United States and Burkina Faso, and its professional theatre troupe have completed a 10-performance theatrical tour of its original play “Water for the Present and for the Future”. The play focuses on hygiene education; the need for water committees (which oversee community water points) to collect micro-payments from all water users to ensure the sustainability of the wells BARKA builds in rural villages, and the key role women play in water resource management.
"Women's empowerment is integrated into all of BARKA's water work because water is almost exclusively the domain of women in Burkina Faso", said Ina Anahata, BARKA's co-founder, and Directrice Générale. In the play, the men of the village water committee misappropriate the community funds paid by water users, leaving no money to repair the well when it breaks. The women decide to go on a “sex strike” until the well is fixed, drawing on successful actual movements in Liberia, Togo and other countries throughout history, dating back to Aristophanes’ play “Lysistrata” in 411 B.C.E.
“Burkina Faso is among the most illiterate nations on earth. Theatre has proved to be a very effective means to convey complex concepts in ways that can be vividly remembered by villagers, which leads to sustainable behavior change”, said Esu Anahata, Executive Director of The BARKA Foundation. BARKA’s theatre troupe performs in 3 languages depending on their audience- French, or the local languages of Moré (spoken by the Moussi population) and Gulmanchema (spoken by the Gour’mache). Local cultural and musical elements are woven into the fabric of the play to further create identification with characters and situations. The play had an average audience size of 450 people, and local water committees addressed the crowd to reinforce the social messaging and to kick off a post-performance debate about the issues raised in the play.
Last year in honor of World Water Day, The BARKA Foundation organized The Water Fair, a 5-day national event in Burkina Faso to enhance cooperation among water actors to create a more sustainable impact. The Ambassador of the United States to Burkina Faso was the “Godfather” of the event, and the First Lady of Burkina Faso was its “Godmother”, honorary titles for big events within Burkina Faso. The Water Fair culminated with the inauguration of the International Water Fund for which the First Lady gave a gift of 1 million Francs CFA, and the US Embassy funded a $10,000 grant for theatre sensitization related to water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH). “The United States Embassy wants to work with partners that are at the cutting edge of engagements with populations. So many of the challenges facing Burkina Faso today can be addressed through an exchange of knowledge and through involving communities in ways that its members can really relate to, in order to change behaviors. The BARKA Foundation has been in the region for a long time. BARKA has sunk deep roots in the community and through those deep roots, it can adjust interventions in ways that community members can deeply and effectively absorb. This is a cutting-edge, grassroots sort of interaction that has really positive impacts on trying to achieve the outcomes we’ve collectively set for ourselves”, said His Excellency Andrew Young, US Ambassador to Burkina Faso.
BARKA Foundation’s theatre troupe consists of 8 actors, 3 hosts known as Game Leaders, and a technical team of 5. The troupe was formed in 2015 through a “Social Art” project made possible by a grant from One Drop Foundation, the Canadian-based NGO founded by Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque de Soleil. Further support for the creation of the troupe was provided by the renowned theatre company, Espace Culturel Gambidi, based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. BARKA's theatre troupe has also created original works on themes of agroecology and sustainable agriculture. “Water for the Present and for the Future” is being made into a film, which will be submitted to FESPACO, the bi-annual African Film Festival held in Ouagadougou in 2021. For more information, visit the BARKA Foundation website at https://barkafoundation.org.