Capabilities: From Potential to Actual Functioning

Day #4 – Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today we learned about HDCA or Human Development Capability Approach. We discuss some of the chapters written by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Zen. Of course, their writings has been given an unusual degree of attention and influence in development thinking. Leads us look at the set of life options a human being has, and the actual things a person does and achieves. Re-thinking of the concept of development. The thesis is people’s capabilities are what they are actually able to do and to be, that is their freedom to enjoy valuable beings and doings. Amartya Zen underlines “what people have reason to value”.

There are four basic principles while learning about HDCA, namely: 1) each person as an agency, 2) each person as an end in itself (the idea of human dignity), 3) each person as a member of the moral community called ‘humanity’ , and 4) how the human being is best defined in terms of capabilities. Caroline, Henk and Ram, then introduces a variety of capabilities in the HDCA. Of course departs from what is written by Amartya Zen and Martha Nussbaum. One of the discussions raised by participants was the moment when we say that life begins and when it decided that life was completely finished, it is associated with the first capability that is life itself. Capability is not a term that ends with a punctuation point. But how to transform potential into actual functioning, regardless of our consideration of the concept of political and personal preferance.

Session followed by a film show entitled “Changing Path”. The story is about how an NGO working to change people’s perceptions about female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mali. Young women was described as person with double burden. They have no voice. All decisions taken by women who are older, is it also by the decision or consideration of the male village leaders. FGM itself is a tradition that they could not explain, just continue what their predecessor used to do. Interventions made by NGOs is not easy. They say, it takes 5-7 years for a change. Various approaches have been performed. Approach to the village leaders, religious leaders, young people also, both women and men. Then the change occurs. Communities are no longer doing the dangerous practice of female circumcision, the problems caused by the practice of female circumcision that have been done then became their concern, and all of the achievements was celebrated.

We discuss the capabilities that we can recognize from the movie, not just what, but also who have the capability. We also discuss the tensions that arise between individual choice and tradition of collectivity, how to negotiate it. Many things appear in this discussion, although not all of them can be answered. I think that is why Caroline said, ‘we need to ask the film-maker to back to Mali to capture your concern’.

End of the day, we form groups to work on three projects, namely sustainability related development, identity and pluralism effect. Participants from Indonesia decided to go into different groups, I go into sustainability development’s  project, Ismah goes into the identity’s project, while Irsyad and Thowik choose to go into a project names pluralism effect.

Btw, good news for today. Ronald from Uganda finally join us at the Monsoon School. He had a bad incident before the day in which all the participants went to Bangalore, his departure be delayed for he had to undergo medical treatment and investigations related to what happened to him. Glad to know that he is still alive, and even more pleased because he has joined us. Welcome, Ronald.



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