GONZÁLEZ ARMENTA, LINA MARCELA; MARTINEZ, XAVIER ÙCAR (2017). 'CENTRAL CAPABILITIES OF THE WAYUU ETHNICITY: The construction of an analysis model.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


The interest to know, which are the real opportunities that a person has in order to reach the so called “Good life” has become a reoccurring topic amongst academics and professionals that focus their research on the idea of human development, and the available resources to reach it. They look for an answer to combat social problems, inequality, poverty and discrimination of individuals.

The purpose of the study is to understand the central capabilities of the members of the Wayuu Indigenous community which is located in the Guajira state, in Colombia. The subsequent phase of the research will aim to assess the capabilities of each of the communities to understand the current level of development of each of them. The Wayuu, are the largest Indigenous community of Colombia, with a culture that goes back thousands of year that has survive even though it has adopted some western practices.

This article presents an empiric research that works as the base to construct a theoretical model, which opens up the way for a posterior phase for the analysis of central capabilities of the Wayuu Indians.

To be able to build the model, the central capabilities of the Indians of the Guajira need to be understood from their own perspective of life. To reach this goal, we have chosen a qualitative method; a semi-structured interview. The interview will be cater to the social, economic and educational characteristics of the Wayuu people. The interview will allows us to approach the different dimensions of their live, aiming to close up on a representative model of the well-being of this ethnic group.

The sample selection was not a random sample. Eight different persons were intentionally contacted. These eight people are representative of the Wayuu community and were selected because they are in the best condition to provide the best quality information. The goal was to understand the perceptions and opinions of the Wayuu Indians about which are their central capabilities.

The interview highlights very similar findings and attributes to those described by Nussbaum, which refers to active areas of each of the central human capabilities, which are relevant when it comes to making conjectures of the current state of a person.

The following points were highlighted as fundamental when it comes to a good life; love, health, water, culture, education, leisure, identity, housing, self-governance, social interaction, and work. The most relevant capabilities to the interviewers on order were; physical health; senses, imagination and thoughts; emotions; other species; and control of their own environment.

With the results obtained from these interviews the variables, the indicators and descriptors that make up the theoretical analysis module were set. This model will allow us to continue to the next phase where the central capabilities of the Wayuu Indians will be evaluated. Based on the results generated by the interviews, new aspects, which are listed in Nussbaum’s model, such as; (1) capabilities to resolve conflicts, and (2) and self-determination as a community, were added to the model.

This proposal could represent a very important role in the work being done with the indigenous communities, given the necessity to move forward in defining the indicators in areas such as; health, social welfare,  traditional knowledge, sustainable development, status of the indigenous women, protection and usufruct of natural resources, safety, among others.


Key words

Capabilities approach/ Central capabilities/ Wayuu indigenous.

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