Starting with the notion that all people have basic rights and any form of abuse, assault or discrimination is an abrogation of these rights, empowerment-based strategies enable people to develop skills, especially when they provide resources and opportunities that develop the capacity for autonomous action and decision-making. This engenders greater personal power enabling individuals to make choices and take action in their own interest. Individual empowerment is connected to greater collective power when those individuals become fully engaged and active citizens. In a school setting, students can be given training and age-appropriate opportunities to participate in decision-making on issues that affect them. Activities initiated, organized and implemented by children and youth with respectful adult support help them develop leadership abilities. They learn they do not need to be dependant upon an adult or upon any other group in a position of power to make decisions or take initiative and action in their lives. Specific skills to facilitate the empowerment of students from marginalized groups can also provide them with the tools they need to resist the types of abuse, assault and discrimination they are most likely to experience. Opportunities and skills that increase students’ ability to take action and initiative and develop autonomy, of course, need to be adapted to students’ age level. Increasing autonomy and empowerment goes hand-in-hand with learning the importance of respect for one’s own and others’ rights.
  • and his fellow LGBTQ students are finally given permission to hold the LGBTQ Prom Night with a neighbouring school. His teacher approaches him with the good news, and explains that the lengthy decision-making process was due to the board’s lack of policy on this issue. The board has launched a process to develop a policy and Ahmed’s teacher and principal have asked for their school to be consulted. Ahmed has been invited to help organize a consultation process to gather the ideas of LGBTQ students in his school.
  • gym teacher has contacted a local women’s centre to organize a women’s self-defence course, to be offered during gym period, for all Grade 10 girls. During the course, the girls talk about different kinds of violence against women. When they talk about violence in intimate relationships during the course, Johanna recognizes her own relationship with her boyfriend. She learns some assertiveness skills as well as some physical self-defence techniques. Johanna still really likes her boyfriend, but she can now see that sometimes he tries to control her. She is planning some assertive things she will say to him next time he acts that way.
  • teacher notices that James has become quieter in class and that he is not doing as well in his school work. The teacher approaches James to talk to him about his grades with the intention of gently trying to find out if something else is wrong. The first couple of times the teacher approaches, James is very withdrawn and quiet. The teacher respects his choice and continues to focus on school work in their discussions. Eventually James opens up and says he is being bullied. James’ teacher listens carefully (see Becoming an Ally/Listening) as he speaks of his rage at the humiliation he continues to endure and his fear of being hurt. The teacher encourages James to think of strategies he thinks will work, offers him feedback on his ideas, and helps him formulate an action plan. Together they practise the words James will say when he implements his plan (see Becoming an Ally/Problem-Solving). They also decide on a time to speak again to see how it all works out, and the teacher lets James know he will be speaking with the boys who have been bullying him. With the help of some friends, James is able to stop the bullying. He feels stronger and proud of the way he dealt with the situation.