Lilit Makaryan’s InterACTive Theatre on Local Self-Government

Article, 08.03.2023

The diverse role women play in civil society and economic growth in rural areas and communities is colossal. Acting as workers across many sectors, entrepreneurs, farmers and active members of their communities, they contribute to vibrant rural communities. Today, on March 8, celebrating the International Women’s Day, we present to you the story of Lilit Makaryan, a young leader from Armenia who brings forward an innovative and creative approach to boosting the participatory governance in her community and beyond.

Lilit Makaryan delivering a Ted-x talk
Lilit Makaryan delivering a Ted-x talk © GIZ

To vote for the Lion who has been governing in Antarstan (antar – forest in Armenia, -stan suffix for the word country/ -land, e.g. Switzerland, Scotland, etc.) since forever, or for the Fox who is the only female candidate of local elections? How to make use of complaint mechanisms for the citizens to defend their rights? How to convince the Antarstan leader to make use of the law on local self-governance or how to mobilize residents of Antarstan to apply to authorities for repairing the bridge to the kindergarten?

To get answers to these questions, and to participate in local elections of Antarstan one should attend the InterACTive performance created by Lilit Makaryan, head of the Youth Palace of Gyumri, second largest city of Armenia.

Ms Makaryan, was one of the participants of the Leadership School for Local Female Politicians in 2021, set-up in 2021 in the frames of the Swiss and German co-funded “Improvement of the Local Self-Governance System in Armenia” LSG project by its implementing partners GIZ and UNDP. Upon her graduation from the leadership school, Ms. Makaryan developed an exceptional idea of a theatrical performance aiming to boost the level of citizen participation in local politics in her community. 

Through a small grant received from the LSG project, Ms. Makaryan introduced the InterACTive theatre. Having written the script, creating the decorations, recruiting the crew among the teenagers of the Youth Palace, she staged the performance which touches upon the provisions of the Law on Local Self-Government, related to participatory governance and citizens’ rights in engaging in local decision-making.

“Initially, my idea was to hold a puppet show. Later, I came to the realization that a contact with the audience is missing, and came up with the idea of having a hybrid mode of performance – a puppet show merged with conventional acting. To create such atmosphere, where the audience becomes an integrated part of the imaginary Antarstan community was paramount to the play’s success,” says Lilit. “One could think that the play is merely an entertainment, but it has a very powerful educational tool, which smoothly leads the audience during the whole period. For example, the attendees learn how through citizens’ initiative an issue can be included in the agenda of their community council.” 

The performance guides the audience through different initiatives, the actors organize a signature collection, a voting process, thus engaging everyone present in real-case situations.

With all the success of the performance and efforts taken by Ms. Makaryan and her team, the interactive theatre will make a tournée in different municipalities of Armenia, engaging the audience of different age groups to raise citizens’ awareness on their rights and participatory governance.