Developing and implementing strategies to increase access to concrete and realistic information about abuse and discrimination and about people’s individual and collective strengths, abilities and achievements helps to reduce people’s vulnerability to all forms of inequity and exclusion (see Empowerment).

teacher coaching a student

People are vulnerable when they lack accurate and realistic information about their social group or community, its history, its achievements and its potential. They are more vulnerable when they are uninformed about the kinds of abuse and discrimination they are most likely to experience as members of a particular social group or community. When they must rely on stereotypes and misinformation to learn about their identity and collective history, their vulnerability to the impacts of social inequity and exclusion is further increased (see Understanding Sexism, Racism and Homophobia).

  • Dima, a 14-year-old girl, is being pressured by her boyfriend to have sex. She has expressed her reluctance but he continues to insist. She imagines that if she is sexually assaulted it will involve physical violence by a stranger. She does not realize that most sexual assault is perpetrated by a known assailant.
  • Michael, a boy in Grade 9 has two mothers. In sociology class they are talking about the social history of families, learning about different forms and examples among animals and in human society. So far, no one has mentioned any examples of same sex parents in human society. Recently, Michael has been bullied by some of the other boys in his class. They have been making fun of him, saying his moms are weird. He feels ashamed, embarrassed and confused.
  • Janine, a girl in Grade 11 who is black has not learned about any successful, black, female leaders in her world history class. She has learned in her school books that the people who have played an important role in creating history are white men of European origin. Her friends keep telling her studying is “for white kids”. She is beginning to lose interest in school and is thinking of dropping out.