The Little Art in collaboration with Group Development Pakistan organized 2nd Annual National Child Rights Arts Festival in Islamabad which took place from 18th -20th November, 2014 at the Sir Syed Auditorium.
A call for an expression of interest was announced to almost 300 schools across Pakistan. We reached out to this number of schools so that maximum participation could be ensured for all components of the festival i.e. Puppet Performances, Film Shows for Children, Theater Performances from schools and 3D Art Installations..
The following topics were announced in the expression of interest for the exhibition component;
• Importance of Education
• Rights and Responsibilities regarding children
• Children and Society
• Health and Hygiene
The festival team curated the plays submitted for the festival consideration. The team asked schools to submit the story ideas, so they could understand the themes of the performances and attain a level of quality in the shows.
The selection criteria were based on the following five major points;
1. Diversity of topics: Festival plays should be of diverse topics.
2. Contemporary and Classic: encourage a mix of both categories.
3. Age groups: The plays should be a mix of different age groups.
4. School’s participation: The plays will be from different schools.
5. Genre and Language: A good mix of different genres and languages
Through this project, a series of capacity building workshops were conducted with two partner organizations working for child protection, Sach in Islamabad and Vision in Murree.
The Little Art conducted 3 workshops in total during the project, consisted of 22 days in total with each organization. The total training days were 44 in total both in Murree and Islamabad.
The first workshop conducted for each partner was of 14 days in total. This was designed to be a very extensive experience for the trainees, mainly consisted of caregivers and staff of the partner organizations. In the series of this first workshop, trainings of puppet making, handling and playing was given. Participants also learned how to produce stories for and with children, or highlight child protection issues through puppetry.
The second workshop was to address the issues participants faced when they put their trainings of making and developing puppetry in action in the field. This was a two-day workshop, where participants we also introduced with few advanced techniques of using puppet performances to promote child rights and raise awareness for the cause.
The third workshop consisted of 5 days for each partner, and the process of it was to train the participants on performance orientation and refining the shows and their works for performances. One presentation stage of it was the National Child Right Arts Festival, but the skill set was also supposed to be used for any other shows the participants might be putting together.
The groups were also supported with the follow up visits and distance learning support throughout the project year.
The Festival was the culmination of the project to showcase how the partner organizations learned the art of puppetry to use in child protection. It was also meant to serve a stage to give participants an opportunity to present their art to a large audience, a much-needed boost for the performers so they can be inspired and continue using puppetry for social change.
The following organizations were partner in the project that were engaged in capacity building exercise.
• Mashal Model School
The festival aimed to present new methods to advocate child rights in Pakistan. Shoaib Iqbal, Director, The Little Art, insisted on the power of arts such as puppetry or theater can enable children to verbalize and convey crucial messages. This very idea was demonstrated by The Little Art team through their puppet performance “Jeet” which highlighted issues faced by minors working as child labor. Puppeteers and performers were trained by the team to present their ideas creatively and it was greatly applauded at the festival.
Ms Valerie Khan, Executive Director Group Development, Pakistan, and Chairperson of National Action Coordination Group (NACG),in order to end Violence Against Children (VAC), highlighted the need to perform a thorough critical review of our work for children after 25 years of UNCRC. She explained that despite encouraging steps, some children in Pakistan are still facing major violence such as sexual abuse, commercial and sexual exploitation and internal trafficking.
Active Child Participation
Most importantly the festival was also the occasion to feature a tangible example of child participation: one of the pillar principles of the UNCRC. In fact, the whole event was co-designed and led by the Human Rights Children and Youth Task Force, a group of young activists from 7 to 24 years old, which was established by GD Pakistan and Acid Survivors Foundation to promote and reinforce human rights in Pakistan.
The opening event of the festival also included the launch of “Cutputli” by The Little Art– a manual for puppet making for children, teachers and caregivers.
Child Art Exhibition and 3d Art Installation
An exhibition of selected art works created by children expressing how they see the world they live in was open to all throughout the festival. The Little Art has also included in the program this year, a special screening of selected films from the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival about and by children.
Theater and Mime Plays
The 3-day event presented plays and short performances from schools. Vision Murree performed a theater play called “Talakh Haqeeqat” (Harsh Reality) that stressed upon issues of child beggary and trafficking, ICAS also raised awareness of identity of females and gender roles in our society through their Theater play “Female Identity”. The energetic students of Roots School System also performed a theater play “I believe I can fly” which decorated the idea of never giving hope and turning challenges into opportunities.
Vision also arranged a puppet performance “Laparwahi” about domestic violence and exploitation of children. A short puppet performance “Bachay Humaray” developed by youth from organization SACH gave insight on how to tackle the concerns of street children.
A puppet show “Ehtiyat” by the Mashal Model School illustrated a story about child abuse and lessons for children on how to steer clear of such situations. Beaconhouse Educational Complex offered their theater performance to the festival called “The Rising of Dawn” which spoke volumes about the importance of parental support and guidance throughout the life of a child.
This year has also seen a remarkable display of 3D art installations by schools highlighting various issues in youth and children’s lives.
In total, around 2,500 people including families; children and teachers attended the festival.
The experience children, organizations and schools gained through the workshops and performance will be used to create theater beyond just the project’s festival.
A total number of 4 quality theater plays and 4 puppet shows produced by children were presented.
The audience consisted on street children who came through shelter organizations, workers from the NGOs working with children, school children, families and education community.
The National Child Rights Arts Festival had the honor of inviting important guests to speak at the event. Mr. Hassan Mangi from MoHR (National Commission for Child Welfare and Development), Mrs. Riffat Mushtaq (Roots School System Founder &Director), Mr. Faisal Mushtaq (CEO Roots Millennium) and Mr.Tahir Khilji from Vision attended the opening event of the festival and shared their valuable thoughts on the need to advocate the rights of children in Pakistan.
The event concluded with a unique speech from the chief Guest Mr. Lars Gunnar Wigemark, Head of EU delegation to Pakistan, who through his dialogue with the audience reiterated the importance of child rights in the external and internal work of the European Union. The head of the EU delegation to Pakistan insisted on the need to strengthen legislation and measures to pursue 25 years of efforts to promote and protect child rights, such as enacting Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2014 and establishing the National Commission on the rights of the child.
The unique aspect of the event was that, it was a living example of child participation, and that it was totally led by children from 8 to 17, all young activists, members of the Human Rights Youth Task Force, and a joint initiative of Acid Survivors Foundation and Group Development, Pakistan.
With another successful event marked on our calendars, we hope we made a difference in the lives of children across Pakistan by at least bringing forth their basic needs as individuals of the society. And this of course will not be the end of our journey as we will be continuing this quest forth for many more exciting possibilities in hopes for a safe and better Pakistan.