Today, I am writing about how a joyful, five-day Forum Theater training program in the context of the Erasmus+ project “FemTalks Forum” helped strengthen the participants’ soft skills and, at the same time, bring up hot topics.
InterACT in Graz/Austria deliver this training from an extraordinarily difficult starting position: The pandemic forced us to postpone the date two times, and we had to adapt parts of the exercises and methods to comply with the COVID-19 regulations. Finally, we were able to gather a group of 9-10 highly committed women with very diverse backgrounds and origins. In order to discuss central issues related to female migration, the workshop facilitators referred to the specially developed training manual. The participants completed six modules in this manual: * Knowing each other; Main challenges and obstacles * Connecting issues and challenges * Creating and analyzing scenes * Exploring and reflecting strategies and the * Forum Theatre performance.
Based on the results of a profound evaluation, we can safely say that the aims of the training (finding strategies to overcome obstacles, networking, and cross-cultural exchange, improve language and communication skills, improve soft transferable skills like self-confidence, self-efficacy, etc.) were mostly fulfilled. These comments made by the participants after the training clearly express this sense of achievement:
“To express my emotions during the week was so healing for me – I feel younger than before.”
“Never give up – to see different interventions helps you imagine solutions in your own life.”
“Some specific exercises helped me to regulate my anger.”
“Releasing the voice and expressing ideas through language allows us to release the emotions and feelings. This is especially important in the first three years in a new country, when everything feels somehow stuck.”
“After this intensive week, and especially after the performance, I feel more open and confident towards my surroundings and able to face difficult situations at public authorities.”
The Forum Theatre performance highlighted the main challenges faced by the participants during their integration in Austria: finding a job; managing the household, childcare, and job all at the same time; improving language skills; dealing with discrimination/racism; building networks; and nostrifying important documents. But one compelling aspect of this training was that the Forum Theatre performance also placed a focus on the difficulties associated with entering the labour market and dealing with everyday racism. The group created performance settings for three different situations at the job center and one situation at a school festival. The participants used a great variety of strategies as they acted out these situations in the rehearsal and encouraged the audience to suggest additional strategies and discuss the situations. Nevertheless, we soon realized that sometimes no quick solution can be found, especially in the performance scene about childcare. We discovered that little was known about the viscous circle enacted: without childcare, the job center would not offer the women a job placement and, without a job, the women could not get a place in the kindergarten. The discussions that arose in the semi-public performance raised more awareness on this topic. Furthermore, we observed that it is important to introduce this topic in public and encourage public debate to increase its visibility and develop better solutions on a structural level: E.g. support from the side of the job center to help women find a place for their children in the kindergarten and a job at the same time and, from the side of the local government, the further development of childcare facilities, both in terms of their availability and quality.
Photos: Brigitte Schaberl/ InterACT; download and copy:
Blog written by Martin Vieregg/ InterACT
Posted in Articles on Feb 17, 2021