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5 Major Threats

In the current context, we have identified five major threats to the struggle towards feminist just economies.


1. Financialisation of the world economy.

“Financialisation refers to the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy and its governing institutions both at the national and international levels”. - Gerald Epstein

Epstein Gerald A. 2006: Financialization and the World Economy. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Financial institutions exert a strong influence over economic governance and the direction of development policy. The growing dominance of the corporate sector and international financial institutions in defining local and global public policies, has resulted in the capture of the State in the interest of capital. The current financial system, including controversial credit and debt policies, are integral to the reproduction and expansion of capital accumulation processes.

This raises important questions of how to regulate and re-think the global financial system, not only to avoid serious negative consequences of debt-driven crises,but to allow for sustainable livelihoods and the realization of economic and social rights without retrogression.

For more details, see the article by Balakrishnan and Heintz  “Debt, Power, and Crisis: Social Stratification and the Inequitable Governance of Financial Markets

2. Harmful trade agreements.

For the past 20 years, trade agreements (both bilateral or multilateral) have expanded their role demonstrating increased interest in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to be given to corporations.

IPR has clearly benefitted transnational corporations with huge impacts on the ability of poorer nations and peoples to realize human rights, notably:

  • the right to food,
  • the right to conserve,
  • the right to use and sell seeds, and
  • the right to access to essential medicines.

In addition, agriculture import liberalisation resulting in an influx of cheap goods jeopardise women’s self-employed farmers in poor countries and food security. Investment protection clauses included in trade agreements limit the policy space of national governments to create and enforce regulations on issues as crucial as environmental protection, labour rights, and the duration of copyrights.

Feminist movements have been, and are, at the forefront of resistance to these agreements exposing its pitfalls.

(See for example, the reactions by feminist networks around the globe to both the Transatlantic and TransPacific Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement negotiations.)

3. Unprecedented scale of threat to ecosystems and biodiversity.

The commodification of the Earth’s resources and resulting environmental degradation and climate change produced by decades of aggressive industrialisation, plunder and extractivism of the world’s resources, have damaged biodiversity and ecological resilience. These damages are now threatening the existence of human society itself.

The international community has failed to address production and consumption patterns sitting at the root of the problem. Instead, governments –with the support of large corporations interested in making a profit - are leaning towards a “green economy” approach promoting “energy-efficient technologies” (including nuclear energy, biofuels, genetically modified organisms and geo-engineering) and carbon trade schemes as the silver bullet.

4.Commodification of land and accelerating global phenomenon of land and resource grabbing.

While the processes of land and resource appropriation is not new – in fact, they are central struggles in colonial histories- what is new is the advanced means by which land and natural resource wealth are becoming commodities in new markets.

International Financial Institutions play a central role in promoting land markets in developing countries. These institutions finance land reforms that enable powerful actors to use land for speculative gain in exchange of meagre promises of jobs and growth. Land-grabbing has far reaching negative impacts on local peoples’ access to essential goods and services apart from displacement and environmental degradation that are associated with it.

People who are resisting land grabbing, among them women human rights defenders, face diverse forms of violence including physical attacks and sexual abuse, on a daily basis.

5. Entrenched patriarchal foundations that structure the capitalist system

This patriarchal foundation is particularly hegemonic in today’s neoliberal models.

The many ways in which political economy and development are connected to sexuality or gender is evident: think how capitalism defines what can even be characterized as labour and ties human worth to wage-labour productivity.

For the most part, women’s position in the global economy continues to be one of gender-based labour exploitation with women’s work undervalued in precarious jobs, domestic subsistence, reproduction, and in unwaged household production.  Because reproductive labour has been naturalized as women's unpaid work, it has provided an immense subsidy to capitalism at the same time as a source of gender oppression and subjugation.

This situation is aggravated by the fact that as social protection mechanisms begin to dwindle, women’s care burden increases.

Further, the phenomenon of global migration spurred on by thousands of economic refugees escaping oppressive poverty across the globe is not estranged to that of capitalist gender power relations. Remittances become a major source of development financing for the families and communities, but at a major cost for women migrants who struggle to earn a living wage in their new country.

In the same vein, we have seen how patriarchal capitalist systems are using violence and oppression to maintain their status quo. Rising global expenditures in militarism and violence, both perpetrated by state and non-state actors, is increasingly used to control dissent, women’s bodies and voice and settle economic, political and social disputes.

Across the world, violence, incarceration and discrimination disproportionately targets

  • women, communities of colour,
  • indigenous peoples,
  • people with disabilities,
  • sex workers,
  • impoverished people, and
  • LGBTQI people.

An intersectional analysis linking gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity, among other status is needed to challenge structural violence and its links with a capitalist global system.

A profound crisis in the current global governance system is also evident in the feeble inter-governmental agreements reached and how they often lack the most fundamental accountability mechanisms. The multilateral system that served global governance before is failing to respond to the current multiple crises. The same system continues to be deeply undemocratic, with increasing presence and power by corporations occupying the spaces where States used to be.

Rethinking, Renewing & Reactivating

These threats challenge feminists to re-think our framework and strategies. To renew and reactivate our commitment to movement building with others for a just economy.

They challenge us to consider broad agendas for socio-economic transformations, from a feminist perspective, in ways that address the realities of the majority of the impoverished. Now is the time to bring about change for a just economy and to address the persistent systemic challenges.


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