Development theory is critical to understanding development initiatives and how they are created. Development theory has evolved greatly throughout the years in response to research and a better understanding of the world around us. Development began as a separate discipline after World War II when many former colonies were gaining there independence and Europe needed to be rebuilt. One of the first theories of development was modernization theory, developed by Rostow. Modernization theory argued that the third world was not developing because they were clinging to traditional culture and they would develop as they began to adopt more modern practices. Rostow was criticized for ignoring how the devastating effects of colonialism impacted development in developing nations. Dependency theory arose as a direct response to Modernization theory and argued that underdevelopment was the result of an unequal flow of resources from the periphery to the core as a result of colonialism. Both these theories and many other that followed measured development in terms of economic; countries with a higher GDP were seen as more developed. However, in recent years development has started to be looked at in a new way.
One of the most prominent scholars of development, Amartya Sen, argues that development cannot simply be measured in economics. Development must also be measured in the opportunities or “freedoms” a population has. In order to measure the opportunities a population has, we must use other tools and not simply the GDP. The Human development index (HDI) is a better measure of development because it includes life expectancy, education, and per capita income which gives a better picture of the opportunities of a population. Sen argues that development and development initiatives must also include marginalized populations such as women and minorities because there can be no true development if a large percentage of the population is excluded. This point is critical to my project which deals with the sexual and reproductive rights of women with disabilities in Latin America. Women with disabilities make up 10 percent of the population but are often excluded from development initiatives which impedes development. The lack of sexual and reproductive health care for women with disabilities also works to exclude them from development. In order for countries to be truly developed, they must make sure they are allowing marginalized populations such as women and people with disabilities to have the same opportunities as those populations traditionally included in development initiatives.