Forum Theatre and Interactive Social Research in Myanmar
Myanmar is emerging out of decades of isolation and brutal dictatorship under Military rule; since 2011 when the government introduced significant political and economic reforms, the country has undergone rapid change. Notably, the National League for Democracy, Myanmar’s longtime opposition party, returned to the formal political process with a landslide electoral victory in late 2015 giving it a majority in parliament, though the military continues to dominate important ministries, and many areas of civil life.

Crushing dissent was modus operandi under the Military Junta, and Burmese people suffered some of the world’s worst human rights abuses. There is a great need for mechanisms that enable healing, peacebuilding, civic education in human rights, justice and democratic process at community levels.

“Half a century of military rule can’t be washed away overnight, but there are many things the new government can do in the short term… the NLD should ensure the rights of all Burmese are respected and genuine democratic rule takes hold.”Human Rights Watch

Since 2011, Human Drama has been using Forum Theatre to encourage behavioural change in health and social issues focusing on reproductive health, HIV/ AIDS, human trafficking, gender equality, gender based violence among young people and their community members and helping them work out solutions for family, social development, justice and health issues.

In 2015 Arts for Action began work with the group to:

  • Develop the programme around improving access to justice in target communities.
  • Train practitioners in Theatre for Justice techniques
  • Integrate social research methods to enable the programme to build evidence about the effectiveness of Forum Theatre to achieve positive change.
  • Enhance theatre and change-making practice amongst Human Drama practitioners
  • Support programme design into 2017 and 2018 and develop partnership

A documentary about the new Justice oriented programme can be seen here:



Overall, the Human Drama programme 2015-2016 has seen the group’s capacity to deliver focused development through theatre, grow immensely. The combination of practice-based training, improved project management skills, integration of social research and intensifying engagement in each target area with repeat visits, has enabled the programme to achieve greater quality of personal and social development amongst target audiences.

Improving forum theatre’s ability to achieve and demonstrate targeted development-oriented results
Human Drama integrated multi-disciplinary research approaches (KII, FDG, Survey, interactive creative techniques) to map and evaluate shifts in knowledge, attitude and behaviour.

Local Authority Collaboration
The programme built strong relations with local authorities, securing buy-in and permissions – this is not easy in the Burmese context, especially with a change-making process that challenges

Building Trust amongst Communities
People kept coming back to interactive performance forums saying that the Human Drama processes helped them to be open, and overcome tensions. Community groups became comfortable to share delicate personal information and stories.

Achieving and measuring change
With a social research embedded in the programme, it was possible to thoroughly research target audiences attitudes, knowledge and behaviour in a participatory way, and then monitor and evaluate shifts as they occurred through the encounter with Human Drama’s process. Evidence of impact includes:

Immediate changes in reported behaviour: victims of domestic violence reported being able to use specific sections of the law to effectively deter husbands from committing violent acts.

Incidences of Human Trafficking reported to authorities or stopped altogether
Incidences of beating children reduced in specific communities
Increased accumulative audience attendance – demonstrating appetite for the process and legal information.
Increased confidence in Alternative Dispute Resolution
Systematically increased audience and increased demand for Forum Theatre events and workshops.

Click here for Human Drama’s 2015/16 report
Click here for consultancy reports
Click here for FCO Report on Golden Thread Culture for Development funding