training filitonu | art and international aid in tonga
In 2010-2011 as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, I worked at Tonga Family Health Association (TFHA). Based in Nukualofa, I assisted TFHA's drama group, Filitonu to develop their performances, strengthen their messages and widen the reach of their grass-roots advocacy.
While my assignment was to facilitate drama workshops, I also spent much time exploring human rights issues with the actors, challenging them to question what negative messages or representations may be embedded within their work. We worked hard to promote family planning, sexual health, sexual rights and healthy lifestyles and I encouraged the group to examine how these issues are connected to domestic violence and gender inequality.
Filitonu performed at numerous community events across the Kingdom, as well as in schools and public spaces. They produced radio programs, television ads and short films on a range of issues from HIV to smoking.
I loved my time in Tonga and have fond memories of driving the actors around the island in a van, singing all the way to remote communities. After performing, we'd stop for fried chicken and maybe a swim at the wharf.