Women face many barriers to access, contribute, and participate in society equally, preventing them from developing to their full potential and impeding social and inclusive sustainable development. In Malawi, many believe that the role of Western organisations is to educate or “disseminate messages” about gender equality topics to Malawian women. Nevertheless, women in developed countries, such as the United States, also struggle with gender inequality.
MASA: Youth recently focused on a creative, mutual exchange between students from UCLA and students in Malawi, with the intention to deepen understanding and engagement with women’s empowerment issues through understanding how they play out in different contexts.
The students exchanged thoughts and ideas on women’s empowerment and gender equality between the USA and Malawi. They also created a critical framework to examine personal experiences and how individual struggles are shaped by larger structural inequalities through cultural exchange and arts-based methods such as storytelling, poetry, and visual art. These activities allowed participants to discover common ground and highlighted where experiences diverge depending on local context.
“It was amazing to see students have complete control of creative advocacy methods and contributed positively in all leadership workshops. Students were able to advocate for gender equality and bring topics of gender balance amongst their audiences,” Sharon said.
Squads developed performance pieces performed on their respective campuses, including one formal performance and two informal performances, using techniques such as invisible theatre. Multimedia pieces from the Malawian MASA Squads were shared with students at UCLA as a tool for mutual learning.
“Participatory arts are an extremely powerful tool for eliciting in depth reflection and dialogue on sensitive topics, including gender and women's rights. Using this method allowed us to engage with large audiences in our colleges,” Dave, one of the Squad members, said.
The project managed to reach more than 1000 college students from Chancellor College and Domasi College. There were more than 90 secondary school students who also benefitted from the squad members’ interactive methods.
This project was made possible by support from the US Embassy in Lilongwe.
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