Real Life Story
Storytelling for Change
A high school storytelling group in South Africa has carried out groundbreaking work, using
comic stories as a tool to explore the dimensions of violence within adolescent dating
relationships. The use of an innovative methodology shows how it is possible to diffuse the
conflict between the need to reflect the realities of young people's lives and the need to
transform harmful behaviour.
Within the storytelling group, students
aged 16 to 20 from Acornhoek High
School in Mpumalanga Province were
asked to write a love story about a boy
and girl in a rural village. Reflecting
their own experiences, the students
treated domestic violence, forced sex
No! this problem is
caused by the boys.
They cheat, so the
girls also do it.
and having multiple partners within a
relationship as the norm. The students
devised scenes from their own stories
which they acted out, and they started
questioning and debating the
legitimacy of the actions they had
given the characters. The students
I believe the girls start
the cheating. They’re
not satisfied with what
explored previously undiscussed topics Part of a cartoon illustrating the discussions
such as rights over one’s body, male
which were stimulated by the storytelling.
violence, sexual double standards,
teenage sexuality and traditional gender roles. Thus a new story, in comic form, emerged, with
an educational agenda, yet still retaining its popular status by remaining true to the social
conditions created by the students.
Real life story by kind permission of id21, Institute of Development Studies, University of
Sussex, UK. Website www.id21.org.uk and Dr. Patricia Shariff, University of the
Witwatersrand, South Africa.
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