Interview: Patrick Young

Patrick Young is the Executive Director of Theatre for a Change (TFAC) UK. The goal of TFAC is to equip marginalised and vulnerable groups in Ghana, Malawi and the UK with the skills to change their lives and the lives of others. It uses participatory tools to promote sexual and reproductive health and gender rights, providing participants with a voice to share their stories. Patrick talks theatre, the role of men in female empowerment, and the effect of the global gag rule on the work of TFAC in his interview with Pippa Macnair below. 1) How does Theatre for a Change help to improve the lives of vulnerable women? Theatre for a Change helps to improve the lives of vulnerable women and girls in a three step process: the first step is building their self-confidence and self-belief, and equipping them with specific communication skills that enable them to assert their sexual and reproductive health rights. The second step is building their sense of solidarity with others in the group, who have often had very similar experiences. This step reinforces the first - by having their voices heard, and their experiences listened to, by other members of the group, each individual feels supported and empowered. The third step is where the group decides that they want to influence what is happening around them, in their communities, or on a wider, national basis. They want to tell their story to people in power who can positively influence wider social norms and policies that can prevent future occurrences of the abuses that the women and girls have experienced. So the women go on a journey of personal, group and social change. 2) What has been the most rewarding part of your work to date?  The most rewarding part of my work to date has been to see profoundly marginalised women use their voices to influence change in their own lives, among their peers and on a wider social level. In some cases, the women who have been sex workers become facilitators of the process themselves, working with groups of women who have similar experiences, and enabling them to go through the same process of empowerment. They have become employees of Theatre for a Change, and in some cases go on to become project leaders and managers. 3) You work with different groups, from young children to sex workers, across very different settings – Ghana, Malawi and the UK. How do you have to adapt your approach to address this? Our approach is essentially neutral - it is structured around three questions: What is happening to you or in your community that puts you at risk? What are the consequences of this situations and dynamics? What could be done differently, either by you, or other people, to change the situation? We have found that approaching each context with these open ended questions, allows participants from all contexts to engage fully in the process of change.

Patrick Young is the Executive Director of Theatre for a Change (TFAC) UK. The goal of TFAC is to equip marginalised and vulnerable groups in Ghana, Malawi and the UK with the skills to change their lives and the lives of others. It uses participatory tools to promote sexual and reproductive health and gender rights, providing participants with a voice to share their stories. Patrick talks theatre, the role of men in female empowerment, and the effect of the global gag rule on the work of TFAC in his interview with Pippa Macnair below.

1) How does Theatre for a Change help to improve the lives of vulnerable women?

Theatre for a Change helps to improve the lives of vulnerable women and girls in a three step process: the first step is building their self-confidence and self-belief, and equipping them with specific communication skills that enable them to assert their sexual and reproductive health rights. The second step is building their sense of solidarity with others in the group, who have often had very similar experiences. This step reinforces the first - by having their voices heard, and their experiences listened to, by other members of the group, each individual feels supported and empowered. The third step is where the group decides that they want to influence what is happening around them, in their communities, or on a wider, national basis. They want to tell their story to people in power who can positively influence wider social norms and policies that can prevent future occurrences of the abuses that the women and girls have experienced. So the women go on a journey of personal, group and social change.

2) What has been the most rewarding part of your work to date? 

The most rewarding part of my work to date has been to see profoundly marginalised women use their voices to influence change in their own lives, among their peers and on a wider social level. In some cases, the women who have been sex workers become facilitators of the process themselves, working with groups of women who have similar experiences, and enabling them to go through the same process of empowerment. They have become employees of Theatre for a Change, and in some cases go on to become project leaders and managers.

3) You work with different groups, from young children to sex workers, across very different settings – Ghana, Malawi and the UK. How do you have to adapt your approach to address this?

Our approach is essentially neutral - it is structured around three questions: What is happening to you or in your community that puts you at risk? What are the consequences of this situations and dynamics? What could be done differently, either by you, or other people, to change the situation? We have found that approaching each context with these open ended questions, allows participants from all contexts to engage fully in the process of change.

4) What emphasis do you put upon educating and involving men in female empowerment?  We put a lot of emphasis on working with men and boys in the process of empowerment for women and girls. This means creating the conditions where men and boys can reflect on patterns of behaviour that have damaging consequences for women and girls, explore alternative behaviours and attitudes to power that open up the possibility of gender equality, and become role models for other men and boys in the process.  5) The Trump administration has recently imposed a ‘global gag rule’, blocking US funding to organisations involved in abortion advice and care overseas. How do you think this is likely to affect your work, or the work of other organisations you are affiliated with?  We can already see the impact of the global gag - having been asked to sign contracts which state that we will not promote abortion in any way. We have not done this, and we can see that the impact on funding could be significant.  At the same time, we have also recently seen a new wave of funding opportunities that are being issued in response to Trump, and it seems as though there is a clear desire to counteract the global gag with funding for projects and organisations who give the voices and experiences of marginalised women a platform. 6) What does our theme ‘Contagious Ideas’ mean to you?  It means ideas that have the power to spread by themselves - they are sufficiently in tune with the current context, and future contexts, of development, and are sufficiently natural and self-sustaining, that they will spread and grow from person to person without needing to be imposed on others.   

4) What emphasis do you put upon educating and involving men in female empowerment? 

We put a lot of emphasis on working with men and boys in the process of empowerment for women and girls. This means creating the conditions where men and boys can reflect on patterns of behaviour that have damaging consequences for women and girls, explore alternative behaviours and attitudes to power that open up the possibility of gender equality, and become role models for other men and boys in the process. 

5) The Trump administration has recently imposed a ‘global gag rule’, blocking US funding to organisations involved in abortion advice and care overseas. How do you think this is likely to affect your work, or the work of other organisations you are affiliated with? 

We can already see the impact of the global gag - having been asked to sign contracts which state that we will not promote abortion in any way. We have not done this, and we can see that the impact on funding could be significant.  At the same time, we have also recently seen a new wave of funding opportunities that are being issued in response to Trump, and it seems as though there is a clear desire to counteract the global gag with funding for projects and organisations who give the voices and experiences of marginalised women a platform.

6) What does our theme ‘Contagious Ideas’ mean to you? 

It means ideas that have the power to spread by themselves - they are sufficiently in tune with the current context, and future contexts, of development, and are sufficiently natural and self-sustaining, that they will spread and grow from person to person without needing to be imposed on others.

  

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