The Sophie Muwanika Institute of Art for Change

Rashida Namulondo , Uganda

Rashida founded The Sophie Muwanika Institute of Art for Change to reduce the stigma around mental health and to empower young people to be proactive peacebuilders through the medium of art and theatre. Rashida faced discrimination from her community whilst she was suffering from depression following the death of her mother. Her work encourages young people with similar mental health issues to reintegrate into the community by providing them with space to heal. Named after Rashida's mother, The Sophie Muwanika Institute of Art for Change runs two main programmes. Theatre for Therapy uses storytelling, poetry and performance as an alternative treatment for victims of depression and trauma. This includes refugees, victims of school bullying, school bullies and young people who are victims of social trauma. The programme also enhances awareness of depression and trauma in young people as a major barrier to their full and meaningful participation in society. The second programme is Theatre for Peace which uses similar techniques to improve community cohesion. Students write plays on inclusion and identity by using their own cultural experiences to inspire their dialogues. As well as helping the workshop participants to express their feelings and broaden their horizons, these workshops benefit the wider community indirectly through the community oriented tasks assigned to participants. The Institute also hosts an annual Festival for Peace which showcases stories of young people on the themes of reconciliation, identity, migration and inclusion. The festival gives children aged 8-19 a platform to share their personal stories. Young people are able to benefit from this intercultural exchange by networking with each other and influential figures in the local community and in the art world. The principle aim is to encourage parents, teachers, community leaders and policy makers to provide emotional support and inclusive, safe communities for these young adults to realise their potential and make a positive impact.