Using theater to teach people about civic and political rights

In Nepal, a project initiated by the National Democracy Institute and the Nepali Election Commission uses street theater to encourage participation in elections and responsible voting practices.

Project Clean and Conscious Voter was created in preparation for the May 1999 elections, to address and prevent a number of problems in the voting process. Since 1990, when democracy was restored in Nepal, elections have taken place there on a regular basis and observers have generally determined them to be free and fair. At the same time, however, politicians often promise citizens gifts in exchange for their votes and, as in other countries, citizens often fail to critically examine the candidates before casting their ballots.

Among other tactics, the project uses street dramas that were created with the involvement of local artists and activists. The dramas focused on ethical and informed voting practices. They provided people with information on democratic mechanisms, the electoral process and potential challenges that people encounter to exercising their right to vote. Because there are very few forms of entertainment in Nepal, particularly in rural areas, street dramas provided a fun, inexpensive way to educate voters that was accessible to both literate and illiterate people. Performances were geared to the entire family, including younger people who will one day be eligible to vote. After a 45-minute performance, the theater group conducted a 10-minute street seminar on the key message of the performance. More than 30,000 Nepalis are estimated to have attended performances.


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