Developing and implementing strategies to decrease dependency and increase individual and collective power helps to reduce people’s vulnerability to abuse, discrimination and other manifestations of inequity and exclusion (see Empowerment).

People’s vulnerability to abuse, assault and discrimination is likely to increase the more they are dependant upon those who hold individual or collective power over them. They may lack the power to take action or make decisions that have an impact on their lives. They may be dependant upon others for employment, or basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. They may have learned and internalized the belief that they are dependant.

The greater an individual’s or group’s dependency, the less power they have to make decisions and choices and to act in their own self-interest or protection. This may increase their vulnerability to various forms of inequity and exclusion.

  • Ahmed, a student in Grade 12, is gay and has come out to his classmates and teachers. Many are supportive but he still feels some tension from others. A couple of his classmates confided in him that they too are gay or lesbian. The end of the school year is approaching and there is much talk about Prom night. Ahmed and his other LGBTQ friends feel alienated by all the talk about which girls and boys will be going to the Prom together. With help from a supportive teacher and their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, they contact some LGBTQ students from a neighbouring school and decide to organize a joint LGBTQ Prom, feeling braver by doing it together. Since it involves another school they work with their teacher to petition the school board and principals for permission. As graduation date approaches, they are still waiting anxiously for permission to hold their LGBTQ Prom Night.
  • Johanna, a girl in Grade 10 has been going out with her boyfriend for three months. Lately he has become increasingly controlling and jealous. He doesn’t want her seeing her friends and wants her to spend all her time with him. She is very unhappy in the relationship, but she is also afraid to break up with him. She can’t imagine going alone to parties and not having a boyfriend to go out with on Saturday nights. She would have nothing to look forward to on the weekend. All her friends have boyfriends and she would feel like there was something wrong with her if she did not have a boyfriend too.
  • James is a Grade 9 student from the First People’s community within a small city. Recently, some kids in his grade have started bullying him – calling him names that degrade his people and threatening to cut his hair off (James wears a ponytail). James has tried his hardest to ignore them as he has done many times in the past in similar situations. But it’s getting worse and he knows he will have to get some help from his teacher. He has heard from his grandparents and learned from his own observation that people from other communities will not necessarily understand or help people from his community. His teacher is nice but James doesn’t completely trust him.