From Puppets to Empowerment

About the Project

This project is one of the 2016 WISE Awards finalists.
The Genesis Project aims to reduce the devastating impact that mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have on children and their communities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to develop awareness about the constant and long-term danger they present. From Puppets to Empowerment educates children about land mine risk through educational and interactive theatrical performances. The puppet theatre performances support the emotional, cognitive and social inclusion of the children and the audience. The children actively participate in the puppet shows by answering and asking questions. Children remember what they learned and bring the message home to their families and communities.

Context and Issue

Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is the most heavily mined country in Europe as a result of the extensive use of landmines, especially antipersonnel mines, remaining from the 1992-1995 war. A considerable quantity of UXO also affects the country. To date, Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre (BH MAC) has recorded over 19,200 minefields but it estimates the probable total number to be 30,000 minefields, containing approximately half million mines and UXOs. Sites contaminated by mines and UXOs directly affect the safety of about 540,000 citizens.

Given that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the first country in Europe and eighth country in the world with the greatest number of landmines and UXOs, a permanent Mine Risk Education is of particular importance. As there are few official trainings for teachers to conduct Mine Risk Education, children are left without the appropriate information and proper warning messages. Due to a lack of funds, the 12 Ministries of Education (one per canton) do not organize seminars or trainings for teachers to equip them to regularly conduct MRE. Genesis Project developed the puppet show on Mine Risk Education as a response to the lack of organized Mine Risk Education children within the official education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Solution and Impact

From 1999-2015, From Puppets to Empowerment has worked with over 100,000 children living throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. From Puppets to Empowerment is being implemented in primary schools for children aged between 6 and 11 who are living in communities most seriously impacted by landmines and UXOs. Other Mine Risk Education projects primarily focus on frontal education/lectures about dangers from landmines and UXOs. Traditional mine risk education is often adapted from military briefings and can be sterile, dull and inappropriate for squirming six- year-olds with short attention spans. In contrast, puppets offer opportunities for interaction and spark imagination and creativity, while holding the children’s attention.

Many schools have decided to further use the Puppets method by adapting it to other relevant topics. The project has shared the MRE puppet show scripts with these schools, so they are able to adapt and develop them within the schools’ drama sections. From Puppets to Empowerment also presented teachers with the “Manual for Teachers” which is composed of six interactive, educational, MRE workshops for further education of pupils. This enables long-term and quality Mine Risk Education in primary schools throughout the country.

The project is evaluated by an external expert evaluation team as well as through internal evaluation. Children have shown an increase in knowledge and skills regarding mines and UXO. Most often, the impact has been assessed through pre- and post-intervention testing.

Future Developments

From Puppets to Empowerment will continue to seek funding to intensify its MRE activities and implement a larger number of MRE puppet shows per year. They also plan to further the distribution of educational brochures in schools (MRE “Manual for schoolteachers” and MRE “Manual for peer-educators”) in order to support the replication of their method. From Puppets to Empowerment will continue to promote the necessity of implementing MRE as part of regular school classes.
April 26, 2016 (last update 12-31-2020)