Jharna Brahma, PhD Research Scholar, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad (UoH) has been awarded a research grant from the UNICEF/IAMCR Communication for Development Research Fund to support her research that will advance understanding of how Communication for Development (C4D) contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The grant, worth US $4,000, is funded by UNICEF and managed by IAMCR.

Jharna Brahma, currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Hyderabad under Prof. Vinod Pavarala, will examine Forum theatre as a participatory communication tool for mobilizing communities in realizing SDGs at the local level in the context of rural India. The selection committee described it as a “wonderfully practical and feasible project embedded in a larger theoretical context.”

Summary of Jharna Brahma’s project

The proposed ethnographic study is an examination of forum theatre as a communication process for social change in rural West Bengal in India. More specifically, it explores how this form of theatre can contribute to addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the community level. Forum Theatre (FT) is a participatory form of theatre developed by the Brazilian theatre activist Augusto Boal in the 1970s, with the aim of emancipating and empowering the poor and the oppressed. This was adapted and further improvised by Sanjoy Ganguly, who founded Jana Sanskriti, a group that works primarily in the Sunderbans and Purulia regions of the state of West Bengal.

Her preliminary work in interior villages has shown how forum theatre equips people to become social critics, to communicate and negotiate with their oppressors, and facilitate community mobilization for real socio-political actions. The study hopes to unravel FT’s bottom-up, participatory and democratic approach and its capacity to bring about change at the individual and social levels.

Jharna Brahma is a doctoral student in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, India, and associated with the UNESCO Chair on Community Media. After obtaining her Master’s in Communication from Assam University, she worked in the area of public health communication for five years. She was then engaged as a research associate with an international collaborative project on C4D Evaluation with RMIT University, Australia and the University of Hyderabad for three years.