Feminist approaches to teaching about VAW: Facilitating empowerment through a critique of dominant knowledges

Styles-Lightowlers, Tara Samantha (2019) Feminist approaches to teaching about VAW: Facilitating empowerment through a critique of dominant knowledges. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 38 (4). pp. 430-446. ISSN 2040-7149

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-10-2017-0221


Feminism has provided a sustained challenge to the widespread occurrence of violence against women (VAW). Yet despite the tremendous efforts of feminist activists and academics, it continues to be one of the most tolerated crimes in the world. This paper offers an account of the author’s experiences teaching about VAW in higher education (HE) and an overview of how specific approaches to teaching this subject can provide an empowering space for students who have experienced such violence. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Drawing upon the works of feminists committed to ending VAW, transformative education as envisioned by Paulo Freire and Foucault’s work on knowledge and power, the author proposes a feminist informed teaching practice that facilitates empowerment through: giving voice to women who have experienced violence; exploring and promoting the transformative potential of education and; challenging traditional and dominant forms of knowing.

A recognition of the social, historical and political context in which violence occurs, and how traditional knowledge about it is accepted, is vital in empowering women who have experienced violence to challenge dominant discourses that do not fit with their own perceived reality.

Whilst there is currently a growing interest in the barriers to HE participation, the author seeks to explore the ways in which some of the barriers can be addressed that students may face whilst on HE courses, particularly in relation to self-awareness, empowerment and healing.

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