Working to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples

Minority Rights Group International campaigns worldwide with around 130 partners in over 60 countries to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples, often the poorest of the poor, can make their voices heard.

This information pack has been produced with the support of E4D.

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Creating change with arts and culture: MRG’s work

Since 2010, MRG has been using cultural programmes (such as street theatre) to challenge endemic discrimination and promote the human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide. This chapter provides an overview of our work and successes.

What have we done so far?

Street Theatre Programme: Botswana, Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Rwanda. (2010-2012)

Engaging professional and amateur actors together with minority activists in order to deliver public performances, MRG has brought to life a programme that challenges racism and stereotypes of minority and indigenous groups.

The performances were produced through collaborative work between acting groups from majority and minority communities, confronting recurrent forms of discrimination, linking the tragic and the comic. Emotional and strong story lines were the main strategy to catch the public’s attention. Raising empathy and awareness, the spectacles brought food for thought to both sides.

MRG’s partners made a film about the project in each country, showing diverse methodologies, techniques, and reactions. The compilation of the four films resulted in a global film called Say My Name.

MRG currently holds a street theatre programme in the Dominican Republic aiming to increase Dominico-Haitian citizens’ participation in public life and access to services.

Key successes in the Dominican Republic

  • Street theatre performances reached over 3000 audience members in the Dominican Republic
  • 12 Leaders of Dominico-Haitian community trained in using theatre as a social tool for community education;
  • More than 15 national and international advocacy actions conducted to raise awareness of, and fight ongoing discrimination and statelessness of Dominicans of Haitian descent minority;
  • Documentary film “Our Lives in Transit” featuring the challenges faced by the Dominico-Haitian minority produced and screened in 6 countries, including in London and Madrid.

Walk Into My Life: UK, Sweden, Hungary, Spain (2015)

A social inclusion project that encourages ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural and migrant minorities to share stories of cultural identity and daily discrimination in order to build more integrated communities.

Focused in local initiatives to increase participation and visibility of excluded groups, Walk Into My Life aimed to transform public and private spaces in spheres of critical and constructive dialogue: stimulating debates on citizenship, belonging, and rights.

The programme facilitated the encounter of arts within multi cultural environments. It debated the several meanings of “home”, seeking answers in stories, performances, installations, and workshops.

Middle East and North Africa: Drama, Diversity and Development (2014 – 2017)

Using the power of arts, this programme aims to bring both entertaining and educational performances in at least six countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Promoting diversity and respect through theatre acts, debates, trainings, feasibility studies, and advocacy projects towards the increase of cultural rights.

Operating as a capacity building facilitator in Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, this programme is an exciting and dynamic way to promote diversity and confront discriminative practices against minorities.

Intending to highlight the importance of culture – and its related rights – for social cohesion. The programme is an opportunity to increase dialogues about the existence and positive integration of minority communities in developing democracies. The provision of resources and knowledge sharing stimulates the establishment of a regional network of cooperation in the realm of culture, bringing excluded groups into the spotlight.

Key successes

  • Project has significantly contributed to capacity building of cultural operators in the MENA region. The project has involved, among others, 23 street theatre organizations from seven countries;
  • Project has increased understanding and acceptance of various minorities by majority populations in the region, by using street theatre and other cultural expressions as a medium for countering discrimination and racism.

Bringing cultural expression to the streets is a way of reaching out to new and broader audiences. As a complement to legal statutes, it challenges stereotypes and misrepresentations of minorities and indigenous peoples in a more personal and understandable manner. Working collaboratively across groups, communities, organisations, and countries, MRG’s cultural programmes use the power of subjectivity to break stereotypes and build confidence.

Find out more about our cultural programmes.