With inputs from Karin van Boxtel, Nicola Scherer and Maria Palomares Arenas. This blog was inspired by a session at the 2023 EDGE Funders Alliance Conference in Berlin that brought together social justice funders and movements to share lessons on advancing gender justice in the economy.
In a post-pandemic economic context and a reality of multiple crises, we see an increasing awareness of the need to advance new thinking and economic policy alternatives to transform the global economy into a more just, progressive and equitable one. However, very often the voices and demands of gender justice and feminist movements, especially from the Global South and East, are not heard or taken into account.
We share in this blog European case studies, illustrating feminist approaches to trade, just transition, and care funding.
Karin van Boxtel, co-interim director at Both ENDS works on feminist approaches to building the future of trade and economy. Both ENDS together with the Fair, Green and Global Alliance and partners, developed principles and recommendations for the Dutch government to implement a feminist foreign policy regarding trade in the global economy. They aim to change power relations and break through the status quo to ensure a future of trade built with equality, centering people, life and the Planet.
They also bet on valuing the economy of care, a feminist approach to sharing and transforming power, and promoting international solidarity.
Translated into concrete policy recommendations for the Dutch context, this means meaningful participation in decision-making, gendered impact assessments, and enforceable human rights and environmental standards. Karin stresses that designing a future trade and economic system requires collaboration with those who are most affected by the trade system.
The recent publication of the Fair, Green and Global Alliance, Reimagining Trade and Investment through a Feminist Lens offers more insights on this topic.
Nicola Scherer, researcher, and finance justice expert at Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (ODG) analyzes aid programs launched by governments from the Global North (EU, United States, China). These programs channel billions of euros for economic recovery from the impact of COVID pandemic and to transit towards more green and digital economies. However, she sees that current transition policies, like the European Green Deal and their financing mechanisms, such as the Next Generation EU funds, lack a social and gender-sensible perspective, leading to widespread “greenwashing ” of transition plans. These policies do not consider climate and socio-environmental impacts in Global South territories, and often they finance (largely with public money) the extraction of critical raw materials necessary for technology.
Additionally, the EU recovery, transition, and contingency plans are mainly financed through debt issuing, which worsens public debt outlooks, especially for highly indebted southern European countries like Spain. With the ongoing EU reform regarding the fiscal rules and the return to the Stability and Growth Pact in 2024, forcing EU Governments to cut down the public deficit to 3% and public debt levels to 60% of GDP, will result in a new wave of austerity measures and cuts in social essential spending in education, care and health, impacting especially negative on woman, young people and vulnerable groups. The reform will give a free pass for EU Governments to spend on “priority” sectors like “greening” and digitalizing the economy, energy security, and military spending.
Feminist movements and scholars are advocating for an alternative transition model that takes into account social, gender, and racial justice issues. This model aims to make visible care and reproductive work, promote democratic governance of public goods and alternatives (e.g. with initiatives such as local energy communities, support for agro-ecological cooperatives and proposals from ecofeminist urbanism), placing the well-being of the planet at the center.
Feminist proposals for a global, green, and just transition could lead to the needed structural change, but they need to get visibility in public spaces.
Maria Palomares Arenas, executive director at Calala Fondo de Mujeres, focuses on the corporate capture of the Next Generation EU Funds in Spain. The “Big 4” – the four largest consultancies: Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC – support the Spanish Government in preparing the Funding Plan, and big companies have been submitting proposals to receive funding.
Additionally, only a small part of the Plan focuses on the social economy and the care sector. After the horrible crises in senior citizens’ residences during the pandemic (millions of deaths all over the country) and the outrage in public opinion, the EU demanded Spain change its public care system, currently controlled by private corporations that put profit first. One of the biggest businesspeople in this sector is Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid.
To change this situation, funding approaches need to shift too. Currently, only the corporate sector and some big NGOs can compete for funds, as cooperatives and self-led migrant women’s organizations, the main workers in this sector don’t have lobbyists or consultancies to advocate for their rights and are not able to fit the conditions to get the grants. Maria suggests that these organizations need support in increasing their advocacy capacities to become recognized actors in this field.
For more details on the current process in Spain please visit: PERTE: How public investment undermines ecofeminist change | ODG
The main economic and finance policies that affect global south countries are decided and shaped in the Global North, like in Europe, as we can see with these cases. They illustrate why we believe that funders should invest in a systemic analysis on how to build alternatives and dismantle existing systems that do not allow for real participation. It is essential to remember that economic justice is everyone’s business and cuts across gender, race, age, disabilities, and geography.
We call funders to support feminist groups affected by the current economic system, especially Global South and East-led feminist initiatives and strategies, and foster cross-sectoral effort and cross-movement alliances.
On a related note: We recommend TAI’s notes of the session we hosted at the WINGS Forum in Nairobi on how can funders appropriately integrate a gender and social inclusion perspective into philanthropic programming?