EmPOWERment - United for Health. A concept for political change

24 Mar 2014

Third World Health Aid – Médecine pour le Tiers Monde (M3M) - affiliated network of PHM presents: 

Empowerment. Look it up on the internet and you will find a wide variety of definitions. Some people associate it with self-confidence or autonomy, others with participation or mobilisation, and still others with liberation.

But what do you think is most surprising? Only very few of the definitions refer to “power”, and we found this intriguing. Some years ago, we had described the essence of our work as “empowerment for the right to health”. And now it appears that this terminology is open to interpretation, to say the least.

The term “empowerment” crops up in various historical examples of collective social struggle against injustice. Nowadays, the term is increasingly used to refer to individual change, far removed from its original concept of political change. Some have doubts about whether there is any point in reclaiming the original meaning for this term, but we think there is. First of all, we need a term that incorporates the word “power”. Secondly, it is also a way of ensuring that the debate about how change really happens is kept alive and intense.

Our many years of experience with partners in the South who use empowerment as a strategy in their fight for the right to health have been, and continue to be, hugely inspiring in building our vision of empowerment and social change. Based on that experience, we would like to describe our vision of empowerment in this document.

This brochure combines all these insights, illustrated with practical examples provided by our partners in Congo, the Philippines, Palestine, Latin America and Cuba, as well as some fascinating examples of social struggle elsewhere in the world. Empowerment is essentially about power relations and developing strategies to alter these and to formulate alternatives for a more socially just society.

This brochure contains concrete examples of how our partners tackle this issue, but the context in which the fight for social justice takes place is important and can differ hugely from place to place. And so there is no “magic recipe” for empowerment. We suggest a few basic ingredients but everyone must flavour the dish according to their own local circumstances.

CLICK HERE for link to the brochure

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