Work Areas

Empowerment

E 1 - Building critical consciousness

E 1 - Building critical consciousness

The Reflection-Action process starts with people’s analysis of their own context and builds in a cumulative way, looking at the connections between local, national and international levels. It is the foundation for building people’s agency, starting with their own conscientisation.

The term conscientisation, which was coined by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, describes a process of enabling people to perceive the social, political and economic contradictions of their lives and to take action against them. It's a process involving reflection and action that enables people to perceive the reality of oppression, not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a situation which they can transform. The key is enabling people to explore why they are in such a situation and to arrive at an understanding of how to change things.

Conscientisation requires careful work to first bring to the surface and then challenge deeply held prejudicial ideas related to power relations, for example around race, class and sexual orientation. These ideas are generally not visible to the person, and prevent change. Examples include the idea that poverty is unchangeable, determined by divine law or cause by individual failure. Through conscientisation, we challenge the internalised oppression and lack of self-worth that most oppressed groups suffer. We also uncover the issues that go untouched because they are personal and private, such as sex, or relations between a husband and wife in marriage. Thorough conscientisation we bring them out as political issues that have everything to do with power and require change.

Conscientisation is deeply tied to action. Because people living in poverty often have a low sense of self worth and personal (or even collective) power, the experience of acting to change their situation gives them another experience of themselves – as agents capable of bringing about a change. This positive experience of a more powerful self and community gained through action is reinforcing and supports deeper struggles to bring about change.

Conscientisation is particularly challenging in countries where states are repressive and space for civil society actions is constrained. However, in such cases, awareness combined with critical consciousness can empower people to initiate struggles within the parameters of what is possible in their context. For this reason, it's essential to start with people’s own context.

Resources

Resources

Here you can download some useful resources.

Tools in this toolbox

Access and control matrix

To analyse who has the power to access and control different resources and who is denied this.The Access and Control Matrix enc...

Activity mapping

To explore the different activities that women and men do each day and how these contribute to the local economy.The tool asks ...

Body map

To explore issues around health and sexuality, women’s rights and violence against women.Steps in the processDraw the outline o...

Body map - power within and power to

To facilitate critical analysis about shifts in ‘power within and power to’ with a focus on sensitive subjects such as sexual a...

Chapatti diagram

To explore relationships between things – particularly the relative importance, influence or power of people, organisations or ...

Community power map

To map spaces of power in a clear, visual way and presenting local information, problems and opportunities. A community map can...

Community scorecard

To help groups assess services, facilities programmes or projects run by government, NGOs or other organisations, by grading th...

Daily activity chart

To help participants to analyse how their time is used each day.The processDraw a daily timetable from sunrise to sunset.Ask pa...

Forum theatre

To help people explore how they might change their reality and rehearse possible actions. In forum theatre a play or scene, usu...

Leaky pot

To explore how governments lose revenue through tax avoidance and corruption. This image of a leaking pot is used to support pa...

Master suppression techniques and counter strat...

Master suppression techniques can be used as an analytical tool to understand and analyze situations where unequal power positi...

Peeling the onion

To uncover and facilitate a process of deeper analysis about different forms of power related to specific issue.Visible power: ...

Role play

To analyse issues and to rehearse speaking up in new situations or on different topics. Everyone has different roles in differe...

Timelines

To track changes or document the history of a community or organisation.By capturing the chronology of events as perceived an...

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