The endowment fund African Artists for Development (AAD) and Tilder, the leading French Public Relations and Public Affairs firm, commit to using dance as a powerful development tool. Through a large-scale program entitled 'Refugees on the Move,' AAD and Tilder will use dance to reduce violence, restore self-esteem and hope within refugee camps and increase dialogue between refugees and the outside world.
Over a three year period, this program will target UNHCR refugee camps in nine Sub-Saharan Africa countries. Within each country, a local choreographer and his team of dancers will conduct multiple sessions of dance workshops during the year. While using dance as an outlet to channel violence, 'Refugees on the Move' also plans to use the dance space as a place of social awareness. 'Refugees on the Move' will use the dance space to convey messages about HIV/AIDS prevention strategies, ways to combat violence against women and good hygiene practices. The dance workshops will also include the local populations neighboring the camps as a way to build bridges and mutual acceptance between communities.
Within each targeted camp, the lead choreographer and his team will identify talented dancers and natural leaders throughout the workshops and encourage them to form a 'dance association'. Through these new associations, AAD will foster leadership and ownership, ensuring whenever possible that dance becomes a sustainable feature within the targeted refugee camps after the program ends.
Building upon Chadian choreographer Taïgué Ahmed's experience and the Ndam Se Na association's method of conducting dance workshops in refugee camps, AAD is committed to conducting and coordinating the replication of this initiative in the other nine countries targeted by the program.
Throughout the whole process, AAD will work closely with the UNHCR bureau in each country so that the program is properly coordinated with each camp's organization. Along with providing financial support for this initiative, Tilder will also ensure visibility and coverage of the project.
In November 2011, AAD financed a pilot project in coordination with Chadian choreographer Taigué Ahmed and his association Ndam Se Na. They conducted the first month long session of dance workshops in Southern Chad's Moula and Yaroungou refugee camps, and the second session in April 2012. This initial project aimed to lay the necessary groundwork to efficiently replicate the workshops in the other targeted countries.
Nine countries and nine different choreographers are scheduled to participate in the three-year commitment. AAD will work with the choreographers and their teams to schedule multiple sessions, over one year, that are tailored to each refugee camp and in accordance with UNHCR specifications.
AAD has created a timeline to track progress and each year has specific goals. In October 2012, Taïgué Ahmed will train choreographers Boniface Watanga (Central African Republic) and Ciza Muhirwa (Burundi). In November 2012, Ciza Muhirwa will begin dance workshops in refugee camps in Burundi and Boniface Watanga will begin in the Central African Republic. In 2013, dance workshops led by Opiyo Okach will begin in Kenya and workshops led by Marie-Bède Koubemba will begin in the Republic of the Congo and in Ethiopia. In 2014, dance workshops will be launched in Cameroon, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.
Following the conclusion of these nine interventions, all choreographers involved will come together to present an interpretive performance of their work in the refugee camps. This performance will be presented on international stages in the United States, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were more than 2.6 million refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011. As a third generation of refugees develops in some camps, living conditions prove difficult: malnutrition, lack of sanitary structures, disease, rape, early marriage, armed incursions, inter-community tensions, etc.
Boredom and frustration induce a profound lack of hope among refugees, generating violence within the camps and tension with neighboring communities. With the influx of humanitarian aid, the settlement of refugee camps heavily affects the preexisting local economy and activities, thus fueling much resentment from local populations.
The UNHCR performs fascinating and vital work on the ground, providing food, shelter, health services and basic education to refugee populations, and helping resettle a number of refugees in other countries. However, some camps do not contain an educational or professional reintegration center and become places closed in on themselves for a large part of the population. The individuals that live there have few opportunities, low self-esteem and hold little hope for the future.