I arrived in Kerala two weeks ago, and have been working on the women’s empowerment program. As a deep-rooted libertarian, this program has given me one key life lesson which I will always remember. What we are working for here is choice and opportunity. From what I can see, the foundations of these programs are based around giving the men, women and children as many opportunities and choices as possible, of which they do not have at the moment. Whether the limiting factors be poverty, social constructions or backgrounds, these projects open up so many opportunities for the people we are working with.
Just to off-load a bit of politics. There are two different types of liberty, over which political philosophers have argued for a long time. One is the concept of Negative Liberty; where we have liberty as long as there are no restrictions on our actions. The other concept is Positive Liberty, which argues Negative Liberty is not enough. This is because what we also need are the resources to be able to act upon those legal rights and do all the things we want to be able to.
This project has helped me to realise how important that idea of positive liberty is. The people we are working with theoretically have the ability to be able to do what they want and go where the wish. But in reality they don’t have the enabling factors for them to be able to have all of those choices and opportunities. This makes the poverty here even more sad. You can see how it isn’t about all the resources they have at the moment, but the opportunities for their lot to improve. This is what we’re working on here in Kerala.
I can probably only really speak for the women’s empowerment project. But we are working to create opportunities for physically and mentally disabled women to be able to earn money by selling the fabric and bags they themselves make. We are working to be able to give women more information about contraception and STI’s – so they have the ability to make conscious decisions on these issues. We are also working to give women employability skills, such as how to write a CV, doing first aid, or making goods which they may be able to sell. You can see the visible progress.
We are working to give these women choices and opportunities which they would not have had if we were not here.