Performing rights: In Baghlan and Samangan over 6,000 visitors to theatre on the right to education

How much do Afghans of any age know about their civil and constitutional rights?
In any functioning legal system, people need to know about their rights so they can address and demand them whenever necessary.

However, in Afghanistan’s justice system, the population still needs more information on their rights as citizens. A new initiative supported by the German government’s programme for rule of law is helping to increase legal awareness in the population, in particular younger generations, by supporting the Legal Aid Department (LAD) in the provinces of Baghlan and Samangan.

This fall, the LAD therefore staged a series of theatre shows in towns and villages in Baghlan and Samangan to raise public awareness of citizens’ rights and privileges. In a playful way, the audiences learnt about their right to education and how it can lead to a healthy society. In total 6,150 students from 13 different high schools in Baghlan and Samangan came to watch the play. Partners in both provinces assessed these legal theatres as very helpful in raising legal awareness among students.

The plot of the play communicated a clear message on the benefits of education and children’s right to it. A family father in a remote village refuses to let his daughter continue her education and become a doctor. By the end of the play, the father accepts the need for education after being confronted with the problems illiteracy causes in society and finally accepts and supports his daughter’s wish to become a doctor. As one female student said, “This was fun! I truly felt with the girl. I also want to go into medicine, but my father isn’t fond of the idea. I want to persuade my dad to allow me to continue education, just like the girl in the play.”

Law in Afghanistan affords its citizens a wide range of rights, many of which are declared in the constitution; others specified in laws. However, many Afghans are still unaware of their legal rights. Especially in rural areas, where there is only limited access to radio, TV, mobile phones or newspapers, ways are needed to help increase legal awareness so the population is given the chance to defend its rights.

The role of the Legal Aid Department (LAD) is to raise the legal awareness of people on 40 different topics, based on the National Legal Awareness Strategy of the Afghan Ministry of Justice. Germany’s programme for the promotion of the rule of law has pledged support to the LAD in its legal aware-ness campaign in six northern provinces. The legal theatre is one of the activities where Germany offers technical and financial assistance to the LAD.