Expanding freedoms: Applying Amartya Sen's theory of "Development as Freedom" to poor urban women in Oaxaca, Mexico
Kinziger, Claire E.
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The research presented in this paper illustrates poor, urban women's lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. Women in Oaxaca, the poorest state in Mexico, have a life expectancy rate of 77.1 years, versus men's 71.0 years, but have much higher illiteracy rates, greater morbidity, less elementary schooling and less economic participation than men (Social and demographic characteristics). In many respects, women fare much worse than men, but continue to struggle for equality, as they are active recipients of the development process. Under the Mexican constitution, men and women are equal. However, in everyday practices, women struggle for equality and for a life that they value. How can women achieve a life that they value? What role does development play in their quest for equality and betterment? Increasing women's educational attainment, participation in politics, knowledge about family planning and contraceptive use, economic participation, and equality within the household all contribute to an increase in her freedom-and this is precisely what development is and the way in which to achieve it. The following research presented argues for development that increases the freedoms women enjoy. Through an examination of feminist theories of development and Amartya Sen's theory of "development as freedom," Sen's theory is shown to incorporate both a critical and applicational framework for development. A case study of poor, urban women in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, with a concentration of their opinions of education, work, family planning, politics and the home life, is applied to Sen's theory of "development as freedom" and demonstrates the effectiveness of his theory.
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