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What should empowerment programs include?Based upon the research from the three empowerment programs, I’ve developed a tentative list of things an empowerment program should include: 1.Opportunity to build positive youth development skills: competence, confidence, connection, character, caring/empathy 2.Participatory activities where youth identify their issues, and plan and engage in making change to the issues 3.Combat the notions of powerlessness and unworthiness 4.Promote individual and social change and action Methods of EngagementDuring the adolescent years of females, there is an increased demand for the appreciation of youth as critical thinkers and problems solvers (Wilson et al, 397). Scholars advise programs to engage its students in using problem posing as a way of actively engaging youth to work on issues that they themselves have identified. Wilson, Minkler, Dasho, Wallerstein and Martin, argue that students must be involved in participatory approaches to social action and be included in the critical reflection on the actions taken. They believe that through this involvement students will “develop a stronger future orientation, while helping to create a sense of cohesion, efficacy, and perceived influence over their world…having a sense of future will promote healthy behaviors and 123
increase children’s awareness of some behaviors as healthy or as risky” (Wilson et al, 395). The empowerment programs that influenced this research utilized three distinct methods of empowerment: Participatory Action Research (PAR), Photovoice and Feminist Pedagogical Techniques; each method promoting youth development skills, engagement in identification of problems, ignition of change and encouraging self--‐worthiness. YES! and Youth ReAct utilized the methods of PAR and Photovoice, while Girl--‐Power functioned under feminist pedagogical techniques. PAR short for Participatory Action Research, also known as Social Action Research, is an empowerment methodology based on Freier’s critical pedagogy and feminist theory (Warner, Snyder, and Gadlin, 2002). PAR develops projects around issues presented that the students identify. Students identify an issue and the root cause(s) of the chosen issue in order to design an appropriate strategy for practical action. It also fosters dialogue in order to promote action. Foster--‐Fisherman (2010) argues that PAR is the most efficient and popular method of initiating youth engagement. Youth PAR gives agency and voice to adolescents and provides strategies to meet the needs of the students and the community. Referring to the works of Gaventa and Cornwall (2001), Foster--‐Fisherman illustrate that YPAR projects can “provide participants with opportunities to (a): expand their knowledge and contribute to local knowledge production processes; (b) develop their critical thinking and experience consciousness rising; and (c) inspire and/or pursue action.” (Foster--‐Fisherman et al, 67) Photovoice, according to Wilson (2008), is a method that uses photography for people to identify, represent and enhance their community. Photovoice is a specific PAR technique