South Asian Women's Theatre Festival from March 8-15

As many as 14 groups from nine countries will present plays at the first ever South Asian Women's Theatre Festival, "Leela", that will be held here from March 8 to 15.

The inauguration of the festival on March 8 by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the International Women's Day.

The groups that will perform at the festival are drawn from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. Besides Delhi, the plays will also be staged in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chandigarh.

The event has been organised by the ICCR in collaboration with the National School of Drama (NSD) and the Jamia Millia Islamia.

Dr Singh said the festival was a unique concept in that it would focus exclusively on women's issues and bring together talented groups from South Asian countries. Six groups from different parts of India will stage plays during the festival, he said.

"We need to strengthen the rich heritage of theatre in the entire South Asian Region, and I am confident that this festival will be a catalyst in encouraging and sustaining the Theatre Movement across the sub continent," he said.

ICCR Director General Virendra Gupta said theatre was an ancient tradition in South Asia and an integral component for broad cultural connectivity.

"The theme of the festival is Women’s Empowerment and creating awareness about women’s issues, which is important in the South Asian context for uplifting society. ICCR has always fostered people-to-people contacts through culture and the South Asian region is our immediate priority," he said.

NSD Director Anuradha Kapoor said the festival was part of a dialogue through theatre with India's neighbours.

"Theatre is a powerful and intense medium for creating awareness about sensitive socio-economic issues such as gender equity, the deprivations and difficulties faced by women from all communities and the need to mainstream their livelihood and development," Jamia Millia Islamia Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung said.

"South Asian countries from Afghanistan to Myanmar share cultural and social traditions which can help them learn from each other's experiences and best practices. This context gives the South Asian Women's Theatre Festival particular significance and relevance," he added.

Former career diplomat Veena Sikri of Jamia said the idea was to continue a dialogue through meeting of minds through theatre and foster peace and friendship. "The play from Afghanistan by an all-women group dealing with the destruction of the Buddha is story of courage. 'Jang ab nahi hoga' from Pakistan speaks against war," she said.

The organisers said women of South Asia have similar problems of grinding poverty, poor levels of achievement in the human development indices, poor maternal and child health, poor literacy rates and high levels of school drop-outs, violence against women, social injustice and gender inequalities of the worst kind, economic discrimination, including through lack of ownership or inadequate control over resources, and tremendous vulnerability during and in the aftermath of environmental disasters and armed conflicts.

The Festival accepts that these issues pertaining to women, which are common to all communities, religious beliefs and ethnic groups can be addressed more effectively through sharing and collaboration at every level, including the national, cross-national and regional levels.

It recognizes the key role of women as agents of change, central to the process of bringing education, development, peace and prosperity within and across the nations of South Asia. Simultaneously, within families and communities in South Asia, women continue to be the anchor for preserving traditions and best practices in the arts and literature, in crafts and textiles, and in matters concerning health and the environment, a press release issued by the organisers said.

Free passes for the festival can be collected from ICCR and the NSD, the release added.


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