Voice of Mpemba - An analysis of empowerment processes in a Malawian youth club fighting

Mette Grøndahl Hansen, Lise Grauenkær Jensen & Stine Kromann-Larsen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Abstract This thesis seeks to answer the question: How can the small scale empowerment process in a Malawian youth club be conceptualised as large scale empowerment promoting social change in wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic? To shed light on this question this thesis explores the linkage between small scale empowerment processes of individual consciousness and large scale empowerment of changes in structures of social inequality regarding HIV/AIDS. The exploration is made through an analysis and discussion on how a Communication for Social Change (CFSC) approach to development can entail the link between small scale empowerment and large scale empowerment. Based on theoretical and empirical findings the thesis qualifies and elaborates on assumptions underlying the CFSC approach where community dialogue and collective action lead to social change. The thesis is built on a hypothesis that empowerment processes and development from bottom-up can affect large scale processes of empowerment. The empirical data is collected in a Malawian youth club in spring 2007 and is based on an eight week course of CFSC based workshops. These workshops include activities, which use different communicative tools to get the youth club members to reflect and act critically upon the social situation of HIV/AIDS. Through these workshops the participants’ experiences with and perceptions of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are explored. This empirical data was collected in order to identify the youth club as a space for community dialogue and its potential to be a collective actor that contributes to social change. The qualitative data are further analysed within an analytical framework, which draw upon conceptual findings from a theoretical framework developed throughout the thesis. The theoretical framework is developed with focus on the central elements in the CFSC approach: empowerment, social change, collective action, and communication as dialogue. Firstly, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is contextualised as embedded in social structures imbued with unevenly distributed power. Furthermore, within the framework lies an assumption that in order to address these structures individuals have to be empowered to challenge hegemonic discourses which legitimise social norms, roles, relations, and behaviour. Secondly, notions of empowerment and social change processes are explored. Thirdly, the framework offers analytical tools through the conceptualisations of horizontal dialogue, civil society, social movements and community media. In this way the youth club is framed as a collective actor, who contributes to public debate on social structures in civil society. Overall, the thesis explores whether or not a linkage of concepts on horizontal dialogue, civil society, social movements and community media can frame and explain empowerment processes by moving the perspective from small to large scale empowerment. In this movement conscientization and critical learning is the entry point to large scale processes which can be framed in the concepts of civil society, social movements and community media. The findings show that in the youth club in Mpemba an empowerment process determined by critical consciousness and learning has been initiated. It was evident that the critical consciousness created was limited to some degree, which appeared when the youth club members had to create a collective identity. They were not able to challenge legitimising structures of social norms, roles, relations, and behaviour. Thus, the theoretical conceptualisation of small scale empowerment as large scale empowerment captures the the youth club in Mpemba’s potential have for influencing and changing the structures of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as their own limitations.

UddannelserKultur- og Sprogmødestudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatKommunikation, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato25 mar. 2008
VejlederePreben Kaarsholm & Lars Jensen


  • Community media
  • Communication for Social Change
  • Social movements
  • Freire
  • Civil society
  • Empowerment