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High school girls in Mali tackle social issues through theater

A woman walks past a decorated clay hut during the Bogoia Festival in Siby on February 11, 2023.   -  
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In the heart of the Bamako Koura neighborhood in Mali's capital, a cultural renaissance is unfolding as the theater festival 'Les Praticables' makes its mark. This festival brings not just entertainment but a fresh artistic and civic perspective to the community.

Nestled within a family courtyard, the play 'ET ON SE RACONTE!' unfolds, starting with a scene of a joyous wedding that takes an unexpected turn into tragedy—a forced marriage. What makes this production truly unique is that it is the collective creation of seven high school girls aged 15 to 17 from the city of Mopti. Their script is inspired by the realities they face in their daily lives.

Mariam Sidibé, one of the young playwrights, shares the motivation behind their work: "We try to convince people not to do things that can have consequences, like choosing forced marriages. If you force your daughter to marry, she may have bad ideas in her head. We can say she will commit suicide, she will run away." Their play serves as a powerful medium to raise awareness and challenge societal norms.

However, the challenges faced by these girls extend beyond the personal to the broader context of their region. Since 2011, the residents of Mopti have grappled with the ominous presence of jihadist threats. The complex interplay of violence and familial ties is starkly depicted in their narratives.

Coumba Traoré, another high school student involved in the project, highlights the insidious nature of terrorism, stating, "We see that the terrorists, especially in Mopti, are people who are very close, but because of money or small things, they will take up arms. Some even lost their mothers. Some lost their sons, and the person who killed them could be the neighbor." Through their art, these young voices shed light on the intricacies of conflict within their community.

Jeanne Diama, the facilitator of the writing workshops in Mopti, played a crucial role in allowing the girls to shape their ideas and craft their own performance. She emphasizes, "If I logically looked at things, it's their story, not mine. So, to avoid appropriating their story, I decided to push the writing workshops even further so that the story we will hear is theirs – the one they wrote with my help, of course. But it's their story, written by them, to show that they have all these problems, and it's these problems that hold them back."

The impact of ET ON SE RACONTE!' extends beyond the immediate community of Mopti. Plans are underway for a national tour, where these high school students will share their experiences and insights with their peers from other regions of Mali.

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