Empowerment is not about giving people power because people already have plenty of power. It is about encouraging individuals to gain the insights, skills and knowledge that will support them in their endeavours to overcome change impacts.
Empowerment offers the following capabilities:-
- The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances
- The ability to access information and resources for decision-making
- Ability to consider a range of options from which to choose
- Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
- Having positive-thinking about the ability to make change
- Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal or collective circumstance.
- Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement.
- Involvement in the personal growth process and life changes that are ongoing and self-initiated
- Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma
- Increasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong
Community empowerment refers to the process of enabling communities to increase control over their lives. "Communities" are groups of people that may or may not be spatially connected, but who share common interests, concerns or identities. These communities could be local, national or international, with specific or broad interests. 'Empowerment' refers to the process by which people gain control over the factors and decisions that shape their lives. It is the process by which they increase their assets and attributes and build capacities to gain access, partners, networks and/or a voice, in order to gain control. "Enabling" implies that people cannot "be empowered" by others; they can only empower themselves by acquiring more of power's different forms (Laverack, 2008). It assumes that people are their own assets, and the role of the external agent is to catalyse, facilitate or "accompany" the community in acquiring power.
Community empowerment, therefore, is more than the involvement, participation or engagement of communities. It implies community ownership and action that explicitly aims at social and political change. Community empowerment is a process of re-negotiating power in order to gain more control. It recognizes that if some people are going to be empowered, then others will be sharing their existing power and giving some of it up (Baum, 2008). Power is a central concept in community empowerment and health promotion invariably operates within the arena of a power struggle.
Communication plays a vital role in ensuring community empowerment. Participatory approaches in communication that encourage discussion and debate result in increased knowledge and awareness plus a higher level of critical thinking. Critical thinking enables communities to understand the interplay of forces operating on their lives and help them to make informed decisions.