In this guest blog Catriona Cahill, Development Officer for Theatre for a Change, introduces the organisation's International Training Programme, including the knowledge foundation that led to the development of the training. Theatre for a Change uses a highly participatory approach to work with vulnerable groups of women and girls, particularly on their sexual and reproductive health and gender rights. They have offices in Malawi and the UK.
Catriona Cahill has a background in theatre and has been with Theatre for a Change since March 2014 when she volunteered on a project they were implementing in Ghana working with female sex workers from the Old Fadama slum in Accra.
Theatre for a Change uses drama and participatory learning to equip marginalised groups of women and girls with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to improve their lives.
Ever since the organisation began life in Ghana in 2003 we have been working closely with participants to inform our method and have been supporting this with a strong curriculum and accreditation, collaborating with academics to ensure best practice.
We have also been internally and externally monitoring and evaluating our impact and learning from the results.
Out of all of this, based on robust evidence, we now have a comprehensive approach to working with at risk groups.
We believe collaboration and partnership are key to ensuring sustainable change. As such we have to be realistic about what we do well and what we are not so good at.
We work with partners on all our projects: both government partners to embed projects within national infrastructures, and programme partners to deliver programmatic elements in which we are less skilled.
An example of this is The Microloan Foundation that offers business skills training and kick-starter funding for our participants.
Whilst we seek partnerships to enhance our own programmes, we also recognise our value in enhancing the programmes of others.
This strong belief in partnership has led us to develop a new way of working.
We are now proactively inviting partnerships with other organisations that need support to deliver behaviour change and build advocacy initiatives for their participants.
We recognise that collaboration, whilst ensuring the best results for the people taking part in projects, also ensures value for money for funders.
It takes years to build up an established base in a country and gain the trust of key stakeholders and participants. We believe that working with organisations who already have this established foothold is the most economical way of growing our organisation and ensuring we are making as much impact as possible.
We have identified three areas where we know we can lend expertise. We have built our capacity to enable us to deliver training, worldwide, in the following three areas:
Partnerships of this kind already exist: we have trained staff members from Amnesty International, Save the Children, British Red Cross, VSO and Irise International.
We know that we have indirectly had impact on the lives of many vulnerable people through this work. By formalising and marketing our offer we hope to secure additional partnerships and expand our reach even further.
As the Development Officer for Theatre for a Change, I am excited by this new open model of collaboration. Not only will it expand our reach, but it will also unlock a new avenue of funding.
I welcome a new trend in the sector of organisations finding fresh, innovative ways to fund their work. This trend increases sustainability, self-sufficiency and the flexibility of these funds.
We are currently implementing two large programmes in Malawi focusing on education and community.
There are always areas of these programmes that we would like to enhance and every day opens our eyes to the amount of work there is to do.
We hope that, whilst this new partnerships initiative will bring us into contact with other countries, other organisations and other work, it will also enable us to continue to build and improve our existing projects.
In this, we will go on empowering women and girls to build better, brighter futures for themselves and for those around them.