We humans cannot help but see the world through the lens of our particular worldviews. Even though I am literally half a world away from my school, my views of development work in Nepal have been colored primarily by my ongoing studies at the University of Maryland on Amartya Sen’s capability approach (largely thanks to the influence of my outstanding development ethics professor, Dr. David Crocker).
The more I learn about Child Friendly Villages, the easier it becomes to distinguish the extent to which this model for fighting against child labor follows Sen’s emphasis upon capability and agency.
Here is a snapshot of Sen’s philosophy and the way it has been carried out by BASE’s Child Friendly Village initiative.
|Sen’s Philosophy||Application to Child Friendly Village|
|Functioning||Current state and activity of well-being||Children should never be child laborers, but the absence of child labor is not enough|
|Capability||The presence of real opportunity to change the status quo||Education must be universal so that all children have real opportunities to further themselves|
|Individual Agency||The freedom to pursue goals that a person has reason to value, even if that goal does not improve his or her personal well-being||Child Friendly Villages consist of individuals acting to pursue their own goals; this may include parents who deprive themselves of certain things so that they are not forced to send their children into urban areas to become bonded laborers|
|Group Agency||Democratic deliberation is the best way for an entire group to exercise its agency and realize its own goals||Child Friendly Villages are created only upon community demand; within each CFV, Child Clubs allow children to unify and make their voice a major part of the discussion about their fate|
You may not believe that Sen’s idea of development as freedom is the best way to go about development, but I find that his approach’s emphasis upon human beings, rather than economic growth, is an important distinction that is too often overlooked. Even though the World Bank reports favorable economic growth and a reduction in poverty from 42% to 31% in Nepal (1995-2004), Nepal’s HDI (Human Development Index) numbers indicate that its citizens still have huge numbers of unmet needs, as it is ranked 115th on life expectancy at birth (66.3 years), 130th on adult literacy rate (56.5%), and 136th on gross enrollment rate in schools (60.8%).
Economic growth tends to register as positive social change, but that is not always the case (such as in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile). At any rate, growth alone must not be equated with development when human beings, or the rightful ends of development (as opposed to mere means), suffer poor literacy, low life expectancy, and little opportunity to bring about positive change in their own lives.
This empasis on social change at the individual level is why I respect the Child Friendly Village model so much. Not only is it creating real change by lowering the number of child laborers in Nepal (481 children freed in 2009, according to the BASE Child Friendly Village Concept Paper), but it is also ensuring that the next generation of Nepali parents will be well-educated and committed to keeping their children at home instead of sending them away to earn money. By promoting the current capabilities of children, the CFV model expands the future freedom and agency of all of its citizens.
 Ideas taken from David Crocker and Ingrid Robeyns, “Capability and Agency,” in Amartya Sen, ed. Christopher Morris, (New York: Cambridge UP, 2010), 60-90.
Posted By Karie Cross
Posted Aug 8th, 2010