According to Unterhalter there have been three main conceptualizations of rights; moral, legal and tactical. While all three of these rationales emphasize a differing logical rational for their approach they all advocate, implicitly and explicitly for the creation of institutions to achieve gender equality in education. Specifically Unterhalter asserts that it is by the mere the existence of national agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, that obligate governments as signatories to advance the cause of education specifically for female children. She argues that it is these texts and "not the moral arguments about rights" that are used to support and validate action (Unterhalter, 2007, p. 62). Through this framework rights are not seen or understood as; providing moral claim to services that promote and advance gender equality as a matter of justice, associated with the tactics of advancing women's rights and equality. Rights envisioned in this way she goes on to say describe a "real and true moral order" or a true reflection of reality. "rights apply to everyone either as an attribute of being human or because legal instruments dictate that they do" (Unterhalter, 2007, p. 81). When confronted with diverse and dynamic groups and institutions this way of looking at rights can become problematic especially when there are few pathways to transparent accountability. For example there is little acknowledgement of diversity of cultures and their individual abilities and need or their freedom of choice.
In contrast to this approach to rights, Sen and others argue that it is inadequate to limit the understanding of or measuring of gender and education related rights only through their legal foundations. "The capability approach broadens the frame for evaluation suggesting more complex processes must be examined as gendered individuals are educated under conditions marked by gendered social arrangements." (Unterhalter, 2007, p.75) Capability according to Sen is a type of freedom, it is the ability to achieve what it is that one values. Functionings however are the outcomes, functionings combine to create opportunity to achieve what one values or chooses to be. Education can be viewed as a type of capability because access to education allows for increased opportunity to achieve what one values. In these terms education is important because it is a tool to increase opportunity. This is in contrast to human capital theory and the legal foundations of the rights based approach because these theories narrowly view education as an input to be followed by increases in financial capital, outputs. Gender equality in education Sen points out is a necessary foundation for the development of future capabilities, and not as the rights based approach posits as "dictated morally or legally." (Unterhalter, 2007, p. 81) Viewing education as a legal right allows for standards and minimum levels to be advocated for, moving education away from its potential to service ones capabilities.
A common critique and one which I agree with is that the ability to practically understand and evaluate the dynamic and nuanced being of individuals is near impossible in any worldly situation. Translating changes in opportunity and agency to policy or even advocacy is difficult and lacking in even a standard language with which to understand.
DeJaeghere & Miske "analyzes the dominant discourses among international organization and governments that suggest cultural traditions are impediments to ethnic groups' and girls' participation in education." The authors define discourse as "systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, principals, rules, and inner logics that construct individuals and their worlds" (DeJaeghere & Miske, 2009). What specifically are these dominant discourses that this critique seeks to analyze? To use the vocabulary of DeJaeghere and Miske when power is present or held by any group it creates "a discourse of truth" (150). Certainly the development field and literature is subject to this same condition. The development field both the theoretical and the practical are nuanced, dynamic and ever changing and responding to the needs of communities, staff and institutional norms and government regulations. There is not one body of literature that connects the diversity of scholarship and practice. Amartya Sen is a development scholar and philosopher is this not a part of the "international development discourses" (153)? Like the Vietnamese researchers in this study, often the "development practitioner" is a local working for a larger organization, government or agency. I find it hard to believe that this individual will enact or embody broad development goals or methodology in how they carry out their day to day work. The discourses of development are "manifested differently" (159) for each group and person involved.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with an American visiting Bolivia, there was at the time talk about McDonalds opening up shop, after all Bolivia is the only South American country without access to the Golden Arches. He said that McDonalds "is going to ruin Bolivia and destroy Bolivian culture". I cant disagree that it would be a shame to have the arches ruin my nice view of the Andes, but I find it almost insulting that this individual seemed to think that Bolivian culture is so weak that it would crumble under the weight of golden arches, made in America. Bolivian culture is strong and dynamic, lets give the locals the benefit of the doubt that their thick cultural understanding, social structures, language and the like can withstand a hamburger that will cost two times the daily wage of the average city dweller. McDonalds never came to Bolivia but Burger King opened up two facilities. Instead of ketchup there is ll'awa and next to the BK Broiler is the Lomito grilled to perfection just like on the back alleys of La Paz. Development can be transformative and is itself in constant flux, in Bolivia there is ll'awa in Peru there maybe Aji and maybe in Mexico it is picante. I realize this is a potentially problematic analogy and I would hesitate to defend it much beyond this specific case. However I think it should be noted that as we analyze different policies and theories of development and gender it is important not to pigeon hole any part of the discussion or critique.
DeJaeghere, J. & Miske, S. (2009). Limits of and possibilities for equality: An analysis of discourse and practices of gendered relations, ethnic traditions, and poverty among non-majority ethnic girls in Vietnam. In D. Parker & A. Wiseman (Eds.). Gender, Equality and Education from International and Comparative Perspectives (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Volume 10), (pp. 145-183). UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Unterhalter, E. (2007). Gender, schooling and global social justice. New York: Routledge.