What are we aiming for?
Well-meaning intervention in people’s lives is only of value to them if it is part of a bigger plan to enhance their long-term future. Giving to a beggar on the streets may give us a sense of well-being and of having done some good, but it may simply perpetuate their predicament and, in some instances (particularly where a beggar master is involved), reinforce their perceived value as a victim.
A more constructive approach is to look at their capabilities, which may be limited simply through circumstances and through no fault of their own while recognising that our own capabilities may be unlimited simply through circumstances and through no merit of our own.
The difference has its roots in random determinants such as geography, climate, politics, and parents, all impacting on the opportunities of an individual.
One way of thinking about such opportunities is through the “Capabilities Approach”. In her book Creating Capabilities, The Human Development Approach, Martha C. Nussbaum describes ten Central Capabilities required for a dignified life.
- Life. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length and a life worth living.
- Bodily health.
- Bodily integrity. To move freely and safely, secure against violence and to have reproductive choices.
- Senses, imagination and thought. To be “truly human”.
- Emotions. To love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger.
- Practical reason. To be able to plan one’s life.
- Affiliation. To be able to live and toward others. To have social bases of self-respect and non-humiliation.
- Other species. To be able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and a world of nature.
- Play. Being able to laugh, play and enjoy recreational activities.
- Control over one’s environment. Political and material.
All of which we take for granted.
So, what is Meseret for Women aiming for? Certainly not short-term feel-good hand-outs. By focussing on each mother as an individual with distinctive needs and potential, Meseret for Women gives tools and hope to enable each woman and her child to go forward and unlock the Capabilities which are rightfully theirs.
Peter Gough June 2021