FREEDOM: Building a Foundation for Development

Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom discusses how freedom is needed to advance development and how directing attention to the ends is better than the means. Kristof and WuDunn show how aid is improving the lives of many women. However, Sen’s ideas do not really work with Kristof and WuDunn’s ideas about aid. They contradict each other because foreign assistance and aid is not accepted by those that do not believe in the freedoms listed by Sen. In some countries those that are suppose to receive aid do not because the funds are taken by corrupt politicians who continue to steal their freedoms as well. It is when these freedoms are not protected that funds get lost. For this reason, I believe that aid and foreign assistance should not be seen as the lubricant that helps gears move freely. To move freely, we must be free first. And for civil society to be strong, citizens must have freedoms first. Kristof and WuDunn seem to understand how in some countries a gradual and slow moving development process is the only type of development that is accepted. They illustrate a slow development process with their metaphor of aid being “a kind of lubricant, a few drops of oil in the crankcase of the developing world, so the gears move freely again on their own.”   Aid is giving slow, one drop at a time. And this aid helps development continue, drop by drop. For example, Kristof and WuDunn discuss how aid is given to women so that they can gradually become more independent and be able to support their families. The process works something like this: Woman gets funds, woman works for income, and then man finally realizes that woman is good for something. Saima, a Pakistani woman who was beat up by her husband is set as an example. Kristof and WuDunn explain how Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani microfinance organization lent Saima money and allowed her to start her own embroidery business. When Saima started supporting her family, her husband stopped beating her up. Thus, it can be argued that aid, although it is more of a gradual development process, is needed.  If this woman had not received any aid, she would not have been able to work and support her children, and most importantly her husband’s viewpoint would have never changed. The fact that aid allowed this woman to progress and that mindsets were changed as a result, indicate a tremendous improvement. This woman’s story along with other stories that Kristuff and WuDunn discuss prove how aid is making a difference. However, aid does not attack the issue of woman’s freedoms directly. Sen does focus on these freedoms. The way foreign aid is put to works is a little disturbing. It is taking a few loans for men to realize that they do not need to be disciplining their wives and that having daughters is equal to having boys? It is even more disturbing that culture, for example Saima’s mother-in law believed wives can be beat up for discipline, as an excuse to justify them. But because he stopped hitting her as soon as things were okay, it just proves that he was taking out his frustration on her and his freedom to discipline her is not really there and does not have to be part of a culture. The lack of education should not be part of anyone’s culture. But I think this is what is happening and will continue to happen if we do not deal with Sen’s conception of development as freedom. Becoming a country full of uneducated people creates a national identity and a bad reputation. Kristof and WuDunn connect this to the history of these countries. These countries did not have much freedom, first due to slavery and then to totalitarianism. These countries have suffered from Sen’s “unfreedoms.” I think Sen senses how aid is not enough. And maybe getting aid from world powers like the US, is in a sense still showing how unfree underdeveloped countries really are. How free can you be when you depend on someone else? Dependency exists when underdeveloped countries getting help from big countries. And in a way aid becomes an unfreedom. The aid Kristoff and WuDunn discuss become the unfreedom Sen believes we must fight. Aid itself can become an unfreedom if it creates dependency. How free can a woman be if she depends on a man? Not very free at all. How free can a country be if it depends on foreign aid? Not very free at all. For this reason, I like to view development like one is building a house. First one needs to build a foundation. SALEF is helping build a foundation as it promotes the civic participation and representation of the Salvadoran and other Latino communities in the U.S., promotes the economic development and democracy in El Salvador, as well as to advocate for its economic, educational, and political advancement and growth. Thus, by helping students in the U.S. SALEF promotes giving back the community through scholarship. This is giving students the freedom to get an education and express themselves, which would favor Sen’s ideas. However, SALEF is also a funds program and realize on aid, which would favor Kristof anf DuWunn. We need freedom first and then aid to be able to build together. http://www.salef.org/

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