A traveling theater disrupts Pakistan’s tribal areas with messages of peace

A traveling theater changes the narrative for over 50,000 Pakistani youth in the volatile region of FATA and KP.

A Project of
Kadam Pa Kadam (KPK): 'Step by Step' Radio Program and Peace Caravan

Not-so-distant gunshots puncture the air as a vehicle about the size of a van comes to a sudden stop at a small town in FATA, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Curious onlookers watch as a young crew of Pakistanis from around the country pop out, and quickly set up shop. And then the show begins: music covers the sound of violence and a crowd gathers, eager to escape into a story few have heard, a story about girls’ education. For many, it is the first time watching a theater production with live actors and from the look in their eyes, it is obvious that even if for just a moment, they are in a place beyond violence, a place of possibility.

Indeed, at the mercy of violent insurgent groups such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS, for the young in what was previously known separately as FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), violent extremism is a fact of life. Militancy coupled with a scarcity of opportunities means that young men are often pushed into illicit trade, and recruited by extremist groups while women – the majority of whom are illiterate –  are isolated at home, exposed mostly to extremist radio programming, their only source of information about the world.

Traveling to more than 20 towns from 2013 to 2014, the Peace Caravan was an offshoot of  EAI’s radio series Step by Step (Kadam Pa Kadam) implemented to provide live community gatherings using theater, music, poetry, and sports. These traditional mediums enabled EAI to inspire behavior change in remote parts of this volatile region including educating communities on health, women’s and girls’ rights, education, and technology, disrupting the narrative of violent extremism by giving over 50,000 people a chance to see a positive way of living.

In 2018, FATA merged with KP.

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