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Bond Street Theatre Launches Youth-Led Program for Justice in Afghanistan

Bond Street Theatre (BST) has launched a youth-led, country-wide program to inform and engage communities in Afghanistan about their legal rights through interactive mobile theatre performances, radio plays, workshops, and other direct awareness-raising strategies in eight provinces.

Much of the country relies on traditional councils for dispute resolution, with outcomes that are often arbitrary, discriminatory against vulnerable groups and impose overly harsh sentences. Afghanistan's effort to build a nationwide justice system has been curtailed by lack of accurate information about legal processes and protections in relation to informal justice systems.

The US Institute of Peace (USIP), which is supporting the project, has reported that up to 80% of legal disputes are resolved outside of the formal justice system.

BST's youth groups are engaging local police, justice officials, religious leaders, and the community at large through informational and entertaining performances followed by role play with the audiences. This hands-on approach gives viewers a clearer understanding of their rights under Islamic law versus local customs, and the resources available to uphold their rights.

Shows are held in markets and locations where people normally congregate and attract large audiences. Performances are frequently videoed via mobile phones. Directly involving the audience in role play ensures that the information will be shared among friends and family.

The program is also attractive to students, and has encouraged scores of youth to tackle issues that have stymied local governments. Such youth involvement promotes justice sector reform that reflects the formal justice system while respecting local frameworks.

Over the next two weeks, BST Directors will be viewing performances and workshops in several provinces. Programs are available for media coverage.

BST, a registered NGO in Afghanistan, has been conducting programs in Afghanistan since 2003 on human rights, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and voter education with support from the US Institute of Peace.

The justice project builds on BST's recent Creativity in Action program, which trained 400 youth leaders across the country, male and female, to design and implement practical community improvement projects, such as trash cleanup, child labor and women's rights. The youth reached over 20,000 people directly and more than 150,000 through theatre and radio.

A short documentary on the project will be available to the press in the next two weeks.

Bond Street Theatre has been initiating arts-based projects for conflict resolution, education and empowerment in areas of conflict and poverty internationally since 1984, and working in Afghanistan since 2003. The company collaborates with local artists to enjoy the benefits of creative exchange and promotes the value of the arts in shaping a peaceful future. Recipient of a MacArthur Award, the company has received support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Theatre Communications Group, Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Open Society, Asian Cultural Council, US Institute for Peace, US Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, and US Embassies. Bond Street Theatre is a non-profit organization and an NGO in association with the United Nations.

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