The “gender equity” farce: a feminist reading of World Bank policies

11 January 2023 by Camille Bruneau


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One cannot take an interest in the policies of the World Bank or in the emancipation of peoples without taking into account the issue of gender, which is itself inextricably entwined with other systems of oppression and social inequality.

Despite the fact that officially the World Bank has co-opted “gender equity” by making “empowerment” all but an obligation for the debtor countries, in reality its practices do nothing to combat inequalities.

The concrete consequences of the projects that are carried out and the macroeconomic recommendations that are made and followed run counter to any hope of emancipation. Furthermore, the Bank’s very way of conceptualizing gender (in)equity is fully in line with an overtly neoliberal agenda it makes no effort to hide.



 Why a feminist analysis of the International Financial Institutions?

We know that “The loans made by the World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

, far from being disinterested gestures, are in fact clearly a means of submitting the country, politically and economically, to the international order of the most powerful, ‘modelling’ it to suit their needs and the needs of the local dominant class – in other words to extract maximum profits.” 
 [1] In other words, debt is one of the central mechanisms of the maintenance of power relations; it is indispensable to the reproduction of neoliberal capitalism and plays a fundamental part in patriarchal, neocolonial, racist and extractivist oppression.

We also know that the policies linked to these loans have a profound and lasting impact on the most vulnerable populations (despite the fact that officially the Bank’s “mission” is to come to their aid), of which a large share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. are women. [2]

There is therefore no doubt that women are impacted directly (that is, as “women” within a patriarchal system) and indirectly (through the general increase in inequalities).

Mainly from the 1990s, studies from all sides have criticized the gender impacts of the World Bank’s policies and structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

IMF : http://www.worldbank.org/
plans, which forced the international financial institutions to “react.” One characteristic of the World Bank is its ability to co-opt criticism in order to attempt to renew its image and thus strengthen its power over a multitude of political, social, economic and scientific actors. [3]

Many feminists have long denounced this co-optation by the IFI and the “development” (a problematic notion in itself) [4] programmes which silence radical feminist and anti-imperialist voices and re-legitimize certain forms of exploitation of women.

After “greenwashing,” “pinkwashing” or “genderwashing” has come into vogue – for example with a new conditionality for loans, the “gender-sensitive budget,” which claims to take reduction of gender inequalities into account in budgetary and fiscal policies.

 Chronology of recognition of inequalities and gender

The 1980s and the structural adjustment plans (SAPs) are synonymous with the destruction of social protection and the means of subsistence for the peoples of the South. These phenomena contribute to the increase of the various inequalities and have a particular impact on women.

Debt is not “blind” and needs to be perceived in the context of social relations

Patriarchy – which legitimizes day-to-day sexist violence and discrimination – is based on a separation between so-called “productive” activities and those referred to as “non-productive” or “reproductive.” The latter – despite their being essential to the reproduction of life on Earth and of societies – are socially depreciated and assigned to women. And yet the dominant economic system relies on that separation: the accumulation of capital (which mainly benefits wealthy men) is maintained thanks to underpaid or unpaid work done by an overwhelming majority of women who “naturally” take on caregiving and service tasks. [5] In case of an economic crisis (in general related to debts), women’s marginal status on the labour market means that they are the first to be affected by job cuts or increasingly insecure employment. They are also the first to take up the slack of the disengagement of the social State, being first in line to take on domestic work. These socio-professional inequalities have lasting consequences: on their pension, their social security plan (if it exists), etc. Since they are less in a position to be able to face crises, they are subject to exploitation. And it should not be forgotten that in many countries these gender norms and inequalities were propagated from Europe by the colonial powers.

Since the 1990s we have witnessed a process of reorganization and reappropriation of (re)productive work on a worldwide scale, in particular around criteria of gender, class, and “race,” drawing the contours of a new, globalized, patriarchal and racist capitalism. One of the favourite tools for setting it up is public debt or household debt incurred by households of the working classes, which accelerate this gender and racial division of labour and also sexist violence via the demand for underpaid men and women workers and dependency on wages. Non-white and migrant women are once again the primary “losers". [6]

Obviously certain women (often from the higher social classes) escape from this gender bias, as indeed certain men (especially non-whites, migrants, and those without secure employment) end up in this category of persons performing work that is socially depreciated and “invisible.” [7] That is why what must take precedence is an approach that is imbricationist [8] and aware of social relations – which are of concern to all of us – to counter one based on discrimination or individual privilege.

It then becomes evident that the gender- and race-based structure of the dominant economy must be accounted for in our analyses.

Inequalities, to which the World Bank gave little thought (or no thought at all), were seen as a necessary evil for growth, one that would eventually be lessened by the “trickle-down effect.” In addition to being completely erroneous, this point of view does not look at what is behind the “inequalities,” which are summed up as the difference in revenue between “rich” and “poor.” It took a long time for the question “who is poor and why?” to appear. Among the Bank’s fundamental texts on inequality, we could cite Kuznets’s study [9] published in 1955, in which the word “women,” unsurprisingly, appears exactly zero times. Not until 1982 did the Bank begin to mention “women,” but only in two contexts: unproductive peasant women or backward women with too many children. The “developing countries” had everything to gain by including women in efforts to increase agricultural productivity (including through the use of chemical fertilizers and commercial seed). And this same vision is still present in many official statements.

During the 1990s, as numerous countries were bearing the brunt of the negative consequences of the SAPs and women specifically were suffering certain types of “collateral Collateral Transferable assets or a guarantee serving as security against the repayment of a loan, should the borrower default. damage,” the question of the “reduction of gender inequalities between men and women” made its appearance. The Beijing conference in 1995 put “women’s rights” and “reduction of inequalities” on the international agenda, on particular via “participation in the economy.” [10] But the issue did not really become significant until after 2000.

Whereas in 2001 the World Bank adopted its first basic gender mainstreaming strategy, which was to serve as the basis for its future action plans and evaluations, and the issue of “empowering women” is mentioned in the Bank’s Annual Report  [11] for 2003 and in a few other documents, the notion of gender is largely absent from fundamental World Bank documents on reducing inequalities. To give an example, in 2004, the famous “The Poverty-Growth-Inequality Triangle” [12] by the Bank’s chief economist François Bourguignon, a foundation-stone of developmentalist thought in the decade, completely ignores gender issues.

In the 2006 World Development Report, on the other hand, we find a few reflections on gender inequalities and discrimination and the need for dealing with them. The World Bank even mentions that it would be possible to reduce them by investing not only in social protection, reproductive health, education for girls, access to water, but also and especially encouraging private property and productivity.

Year after year, the “progressive” proposals are invariably counterbalanced by other “antagonistic interests.” For example, the need to find a “golden mean” between social protection of women workers and corporate profitability:

[…] in all areas the policy mix needs to be assessed in ways that balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. protection (for all workers) with allowances for the restructuring so central to dynamic growth and employment creation. Worker security is often provided by various excessively stringent forms of employment protection legislation, which, in general, make it costly to hire and, in some cases, make it even costlier to hire unskilled, young, and female workers […].  [13]

Social security, essential for the most precarious persons, which includes women, is seen as an obstacle to the profitability of businesses. So that when positive proposals regarding women are not counterbalanced in this way, the fact is justified by saying that this will encourage risk taking and thus profitability, or that it will contribute to competitiveness, productivity, growth, an entrepreneurial spirit and so on. When discriminations are attacked as such – for example domestic violence – it is done to enable better integration of women into the labour market! Such measures, then, are not ends in themselves.

2007 is the year of the Gender Action Plan, entitled: “Gender Equality as Smart Economics.”  [14] It made gender a central issue and has since served as a foundation that is regularly updated.

It is based on an independent and highly critical evaluation of the 2001 strategy which singled out the failure to take the gender dimension into account beginning in 2003.

Suspecting that the fault lay in the absence of mechanisms for control and evaluation, the new strategy for 2007 accents “priority” sectors for the emancipation of women: “agriculture, private sector development, finance and infrastructure.” So it would seem that in 2007, women were not affected by matters of social reproduction, public services, violence, etc.!

The 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development  [15] in turn became the conceptual framework for the subsequent strategies.

Despite increasing recognition of gender norms and the sexual division of labour as the years have passed, [16] the recipe remains increasing revenue via participation in paid labour.

Following the same logic, in 2015 the World Bank launched its strategy for 2016–2023 under the banner of “inclusive growth.” Whereas in the part entitled “Progress since 2000” the Gender Strategy  [17] report notes that, despite women being engaged in economic activities, […] gender inequality in the world of work has been stubbornly persistent across multiple dimensions.” Yet the “Lessons Learned” section contains nothing that calls the Bank’s own policies into question. At the end, it even congratulates itself for having shown the way to progress in gender equity Equity The capital put into an enterprise by the shareholders. Not to be confused with ’hard capital’ or ’unsecured debt’. in several areas.

Finally, in 2016, a whole series of new indicators are proposed for use in evaluation. Nearly all of them are related to paid labour; we shall return to them later in this text.

Briefly:

- The issue of gender has been present in the reports for a little over 20 years, but was not among the central strategies until 2006, whereas recently the Bank has devoted a multitude of reports and projects to it.

- This recent evolution is not the expression of feminist awareness or a desire to end exploitation. It should be understood as:

◦ a public-relations effort in response to criticisms and to major protest movements;

◦ an attempt to “incorporate women and the feminist movement in the process of neoliberal globalization.”  [18]

- Emancipation is never treated as an end in itself but merely as a tool in the service of the capitalist economy. Women are resources, they are an investment, an “underutilized asset Asset Something belonging to an individual or a business that has value or the power to earn money (FT). The opposite of assets are liabilities, that is the part of the balance sheet reflecting a company’s resources (the capital contributed by the partners, provisions for contingencies and charges, as well as the outstanding debts). ,” and they need to be brought into the productive sphere.

The first paragraph of the Introduction to the World Bank Annual Gender Trust Funds Program Report for 2015  [19] says it all: “Failure to fully unleash women’s productive potential represents a major missed opportunity, with significant consequences for individuals, families, and economies.”

All this rhetoric has encouraged an institutional and imperialist form of feminism – yet another trump card in the hand of neoliberalism, now hiding behind the mask of “concern for women’s rights.”

The World Bank, along with the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
, continues knowingly to prescribe policies that are prejudicial to women, giving priority to repayment of debt to the detriment of social expenditures. At the centre of these strategies are markets, and human beings; the seemingly progressive rhetoric never calls the fundamental neoliberal credo into question. What all the discourse, all the buzzwords like “agency” and “empowerment” and “mainstreaming” amount to is nothing more or less than an ambitious genderwashing project.

 The World Bank’s approach to gender is rhetoric in the service of capital, and not of the majority of women!

Since the negative impacts of “poverty reduction” projects, unaware of gender and aimed at “heads of families,” were recognized, numerous “development” programmes have begun to focus on reducing workplace inequality, “gender strategies” and “empowerment.” Women’s rights as an integral part of development have become the stated goal of international institutions and NGOs. Gender budgeting has become de rigueur and is in the continuity of a process oriented towards the needs of investors, using the argument of the miraculous “trickle-down effect” that is supposed to be favourable to women and the poor.

And yet, in addition to the genderwashing described above, the dominant discourse of the World Bank and its allies reinforces certain gender biases, thus reaffirming a form of patriarchal domination, for two reasons:

– Firstly, by presuming to decide for women – especially non-Western women – what is good for them, the Bank takes on the role of father or professor of world economics, acting for the good of individuals who are incapable of knowing for themselves what they need.

Indeed, it is much more common to read and hear what the World Bank considers to be an “emancipated” woman than to hear the voices of those same women. This discourse is systematically based on one gender norm which is reinforced to serve specific interests. This takes away from the women of the Global South their ability to decide the means of their emancipation for themselves by placing them in prefabricated, homogenous pigeonholes – oblivious of intersectionality [20] and blind to the multiple and varied realities of women – which are useful to whatever the economic and conjunctural theory of the moment happens to be: the businesswoman whose enterprising spirit is held back by the local culture; the woman who must see to the needs of a household and who is central to the economy of the family and to resilience in the face of crises; the female skilled worker who is indispensable to economic growth; the poor vulnerable victim, etc. …

This discourse is self-perpetuating, as can be seen in the IMF report that refers to women as[…] one of the most ‘underutilized assets’ in the economy.”  [21]

– Secondly, empowerment – a multidimensional emancipatory process which should include numerous factors – is measured mainly via women’s “participation in economic and political life,” which is much too limited. [22] This rhetoric about emancipation via work is problematic and dangerous for several reasons:

  • By promoting increasing participation of women in economic life, this discourse completely hides the reality of how most human societies operate, as if women do not participate in economic life if they do not have declared wage-earning employment! What about the colossal amounts of unpaid work done in caring for loved ones, communities and ecosystems, without which what is called “the productive economy” would simply collapse? The World Bank is not ignorant of their existence, yet these realities do not enter into the scope of its considerations. At best they are “obstacles” to paid labour by women. A redistribution which would not reproduce existing exploitative relations, some form of public or collective recognition, or a calling into question of gender norms are simply not on the agenda.
  • Denying the importance of care work while placing value on paid work can contribute not only to increasing inequalities of gender (by increasing the total working time), but also between women because it is women of the poorer classes who take on the burden of care in a large percentage of wealthy households (since women who acquire well-paid full-time employment spurn care work and neither men nor the collectivity take up the burden).
  • This simplistic vision of emancipation as being synonymous solely with economic autonomy via paid work ignores the fact that the increase in the number of women on the labour market is generally accompanied by an increase in the number of ultra-precarious jobs. In many countries, this entry onto the labour market has been concretized in the form of free-trade zones, making women’s devalued labour a prime tool for increasing profitability. In Cambodia, for example, the early 2000s were marked by strong economic growth driven by textile-industry exportation, which employs women almost exclusively. At the same time, from 2004 to 2009, the gender wage gap in the county more than doubled. [23] Unless all forms of exploitation are attacked simultaneously, any expansion of the labour market will always be accompanied by an increase in the exploitation of certain workers.
  • Further, the approach is insufficiently founded. Even if there are arguments to indicate a correlation between economic growth and reduction of gender inequalities, others show just as clearly that economic inequality increases with certain forms of growth.
  • It also ignores the fact that other possibilities exist for meeting one’s needs: the informal economy, self-sufficiency, etc. Since the principal indicators are “rate of participation” and “income,” emancipation is measured in monetary terms and not in terms of quality of life. It should be stressed that women’s entry onto the labour market is often accompanied by destruction of the previous means of subsistence and of living space, causing massive migration to the cities to join the ranks of precarious women workers (domestic or industrial work, prostitution, service work, etc.) In numerous cases, whilst “monetary poverty” is reduced, material poverty and the arduousness of daily work increase!
    The rhetoric is that of a process of putting women’s work at the service of financial interests, which makes no apologies for itself and is overlaid with a thin coat of institutional and Western feminism that smells strongly of imperialism and neoliberalism. It takes away the self-determination of the women of the Global South and represses any radical voices that try to move the discussion to the issue of ending over-exploitation of the South by the North as a condition of the emancipation of women in all their diversity.

Despite its co-opting of criticism in its official discourse, the World Bank continues to refer to women in nearly exclusively economic terms, closing off the path to real emancipation, which cannot be reduced to the economic dimension alone.

That discourse does not show evidence of a desire to end domination, or to ensure basic human rights; it is all about ensuring profitability. According to the World Bank, then, too much emphasis must not be placed on the notions of patriarchy and unequal social relations because it could weaken the foundation of exploited work on which the system in place rests.

 World Bank loans, projects and policies: specific and damaging impacts

Whereas several World Bank programmes have surely improved women’s access to work and their condition in general (later age for women’s first childbirth, access to schooling, formal equality, vocational integration programmes, solidarity-based economies, etc.), criticisms need to be made.

In the name of macroeconomic stability, the institution imposes budgetary austerity and encourages corporate profitability. The very mechanisms that have worsened inequalities are prescribed as remedies.

Following application of the Bank’s macroeconomic recommendations, inadequate resources are allocated to public services and social protection, which mainly benefit vulnerable populations, which include women as a whole.

As an example, in the 1990s, when African countries were allocating between 15 and 50% of their budgets to servicing debt, in all cases less than 20% was devoted to social services. In 2013 in Latin America, the figure is often less than 10% for education and less than 5% for health, compared to between 10 and 40% for debt servicing. [24]

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the flagship measures promoted by the World Bank and the IMF: currency devaluation Devaluation A lowering of the exchange rate of one currency as regards others. , removal of tariff and customs barriers, dismantling of price controls and public subsidies, increased flexibility of labour laws, privatizations, reduction of corporate taxes and taxes on capital, increases in value-added tax (VAT), encouragement of exportations in order to bring in foreign currency, reduction of public spending, wage freezes and budget cuts for social and public services such as education, health, social protection, non-profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. associations, transport, basic infrastructures, etc.

These adjustments of macroeconomic variables, whose purpose is to ensure rapid repayment of creditors, have very concrete consequences for the lives of the most precarious populations. A gender-aware examination shows how women are specifically [25] impacted in six different areas that can occur simultaneously and to varying degrees depending on contexts and regions.

1. Women make up the majority of workers in the sectors concerned;

2. Women are the principal users and beneficiaries of the services and sectors concerned;

3. It is mothers, wives, sisters, etc. – that is, women – who compensate for economic shocks and the disengagement of the social State by increasing the amount of unpaid labour they perform;

4. Women are the leading producers and farmers in the world, in particular in the informal economy, whose means of subsistence and production are being destroyed;

5. Women are the first victims of sexist violence, which is increasing under the stress of megaprojects and the precarization of growing fringes of the population;

6. It is women heads of households and small business owners who contract microcredits and consumer credits in order to meet their needs and those of their families.

This reading can be applied systematically to analyses of debt and of austerity. Here we propose to examine four types of measures promoted by the World Bank.

 Agricultural policies and extractivist projects: impact on women

Far from taking an interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. in preserving ecosystems, many of the World Bank’s projects and strategies are extractivist in nature: “development” and growth via the exploitation and destruction of natural resources. [26] I will cite the “white elephants” – megaprojects that are harmful and often imposed by force: energy production projects, mining projects, infrastructure or logistics projects, of which the INGA dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo is emblematic. I also have in mind the reforms that have come about in the wake of the “green revolution” [27] and the exportation policies which contribute to the destruction of living organisms, of communities and food sovereignty: monoculture Monoculture When one crop alone is cultivated. Many countries of the South have been induced to specialize in the production of a commodity for export (cotton, coffee, cocoa, groundnuts, tobacco, etc.) to procure hard currency for debt repayments. , GMOs, pollution and exhaustion of the soils, biopiracy via intellectual property, land-grabbing, etc.

These projects have in common an obviously ecocidal character, but also the fact that they very often contribute to the destruction of means of subsistence, territories and knowledge possessed by communities, responsibility for whose preservation lies mainly with women. This destruction (deforestation, pollution of the soil, floods) forces them into migration, seeking alternatives in the “new” forms of employment that are supposedly typically feminine: domestic work, production in free-trade zones, care-giving, and even forced prostitution. And it is this “entry” of women into the “productive economy” that the World Bank is so pleased about. As mentioned above, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reports that 3.4 million persons have been displaced as a result of World Bank projects, and end up in camps for displaced persons. [28] The people the World Bank is supposed to be “helping” are in reality the ones who are most heavily impacted.

But beyond that, this type of project often involves the presence of armed groups, either assigned to “protect” the projects in question, or who seek to control territories where raw materials are located. This aggravates the violence, in particular sexual violence, women are exposed to. Repressive and homicidal violence are also increasing, particularly towards those women who oppose these projects by defending the environment, their land, their culture and their practices.

As for the World Bank’s agricultural policies, they aggravate certain inequalities. Agriculture is one of the principal activities of women worldwide. But the planting of monocultures for exportation (which increases the GDP GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
and brings in currency for repaying debt) means that food crops Food crops Crops destined to feed local populations (millet, manioc, etc.), as opposed to cash crops, destined for export (coffee, cocoa, tea, groundnuts, sugar, etc.) , essential for many families, are pushed onto land that is always farther away and less fertile. This increases travel times and risks of aggression while travelling and the arduousness of the work, all the while with harvests diminishing in quantity and quality. It has a direct impact on the income, and also the health and food security of women, including girls, who are the first victims of malnutrition. Lastly, it also threatens national food sovereignty. In certain regions, employment in cash agriculture is offered to men by priority, forcing women into even more precarious activities. Even if, globally, the proportion of women employed in the agricultural sector has diminished over the last 20 years (while increasing in the service sector), it remains their leading source of employment in low- and middle-income countries where they do the most arduous, time-consuming and low-paid work. The agrarian policies promoted by the World Bank therefore impact women especially heavily. [29]

Among the measures imposed is an end to subsidies on agricultural inputs whilst European products, which are subsidized by Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), flood the markets – a totally unfair form of competition which directly affects women’s means of subsistence and of production.

 The destruction of public services

We know that, as confirmed by the UN Human Rights Commission in a 2003 Report,697 structural adjustment plans, the result of a policy knowingly devised and applied by the directors of the IMF and the World Bank, have extremely negative consequences on economic, social and cultural rights, especially in matters of health, education, access to drinking water, food safety, etc.

The destruction of these sectors, all of which can be considered to be common goods Common goods In economics, common goods are characterized by being collectively owned, as opposed to either privately or publicly owned. In philosophy, the term denotes what is shared by the members of one community, whether a town or indeed all humanity, from a juridical, political or moral standpoint. , has grave consequences for women, both as workers and functionaries who either lose their jobs or suffer wage reductions with no compensation, and also as users of these services, both for themselves and for those they support and care for. Privatization and budget cuts in the health sector reduce access to health services for the poorest women, seriously affect gynecological care, maternity services and everything related to sexual and reproductive health. These issues are too often ignored by decision-makers, who are often men.

Further, it is women who compensate for the changes imposed by the World Bank through the unpaid work they are then forced to perform as a consequence of those policies. The Bank in fact supports the withdrawal of the social State through the privatization of public services or the implementation of public-private partnerships (PPPs). According to neoliberal dogma, private management is more “competitive” and therefore more efficient. The Bank explicitly and regularly demands that water distribution be privatized, which has had many negative impacts, as proven by the cases of Bolivia and Tanzania, where water privatization resulted not only in increased inefficiency but also higher rates and the closure of public wells, with disastrous consequences for agriculture. Fetching water is a task that generally falls on women and girls. For them, the reduced access to water increases the time necessary for that task, increases the risks to their health – in particular back problems –, and increases their exposure to aggression since they have to walk longer distances. [30] PPPs, praised for their supposed better management, are in reality less efficient: they cost the taxpayer up to six times as much and the jobs they provide are more precarious. [31]

 Tax reforms

The World Bank supports tax reforms that are in reality favourable to big capital – removal of customs barriers, reductions in corporate taxes and taxes on large fortunes and very high incomes. To compensate for these losses of revenue, increasing the Value Added Tax is the most favoured measure of the IFI. This is what is known as regressive taxation, because it has a stronger proportional impact on persons with low income. Thus the “budgetary efforts” demanded by the World Bank are in fact made by those poorer individuals! Women, who are responsible for many household expenditures despite often having lower incomes, are often the ones who face this day-to-day hell. The fact that essential products such as menstrual protection are not included among the “basic products” on which the sales tax is lower [32] creates additional difficulties. One adolescent girl in ten in Africa misses a week of school per month as a result. [33]

Another aspect relates to women’s principal activity at the worldwide level: informal agriculture, and informal work in general. With prices of agricultural inputs increasing, it costs them more and more to make their living, but they do not benefit from the same tax advantages as do entrepreneurs in the formal economy. For the Bretton Woods Project, women who work in the informal sector and depend on the formal sector for supplies are without doubt the most affected by these measures. In a survey conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), women specifically rank “taxes” among the obstacles to joining the formal economy.

These fiscal measures will always be ineffective in the countries with the lowest revenues, where the majority of the economy is informal. They can only lead to the adoption of new restrictive measures, often in the form of cuts in social protection. It is a familiar vicious circle! Furthermore, these imposed “adjustments” amount to a direct and repeated violation of the fundamental principle according to which the taxation regime is the foundation of the sovereignty and autonomy of States. Debts contracted in order to implement these measures are therefore totally odious and illegitimate.

 Access to microcredit

Microcredit has been a favoured vector of the World Bank’s “soft loans” policy and has been greatly praised by the international community. Microcredit consists in granting loans of small amounts to business owners or artisans who do not have access to “traditional” bank loans. It developed mainly in countries of the South and is aimed at people who are outside the banking system, and therefore often among the poorest.

Worldwide, women account for up to 80% of the clientele for microfinance instruments. [34] Under cover of the principle of encouraging economic autonomy, women are directly targeted, in part because of stereotypes concerning their docility in repaying. These microcredits are characterized by significantly higher interest rates Interest rates When A lends money to B, B repays the amount lent by A (the capital) as well as a supplementary sum known as interest, so that A has an interest in agreeing to this financial operation. The interest is determined by the interest rate, which may be high or low. To take a very simple example: if A borrows 100 million dollars for 10 years at a fixed interest rate of 5%, the first year he will repay a tenth of the capital initially borrowed (10 million dollars) plus 5% of the capital owed, i.e. 5 million dollars, that is a total of 15 million dollars. In the second year, he will again repay 10% of the capital borrowed, but the 5% now only applies to the remaining 90 million dollars still due, i.e. 4.5 million dollars, or a total of 14.5 million dollars. And so on, until the tenth year when he will repay the last 10 million dollars, plus 5% of that remaining 10 million dollars, i.e. 0.5 million dollars, giving a total of 10.5 million dollars. Over 10 years, the total amount repaid will come to 127.5 million dollars. The repayment of the capital is not usually made in equal instalments. In the initial years, the repayment concerns mainly the interest, and the proportion of capital repaid increases over the years. In this case, if repayments are stopped, the capital still due is higher…

The nominal interest rate is the rate at which the loan is contracted. The real interest rate is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation.
than those of “normal” banks, and of course higher than the zero interest rate which is the norm in most traditional monetary circuits such as tontines.

Jules Falquet stresses that microcredit “is nothing more than women’s right, or their ‘duty,’ to go into debt, and at the same time a means of forcing into the banking circuits of the North the immense ‘deposits of savings,’ often organized by women, that exist in the South.”  [35] This impoverishment of women via debt consolidates the process of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.

The process of herding the poor into the banking circuit and creating new opportunities for investment is a way of perpetuating the damage caused by neoliberal growth, which continues to exclude collective and macroeconomic solutions in favour of individual and financial ones.

 Has the Bank conducted self-criticism in the middle of a multidimensional global crisis?

Despite all this, the Bank still does not seem to engage in any real self-criticism. For example, the Bank’s evaluation of its 2007 Gender Equality as Smart Economics (GAP) Action Plan over a period of three years [36] did not respond to criticism made by civil society. Elizabeth Arend demonstrates this with reference to five areas: failure to consider women’s human rights (yes, they also apply to women!); insufficient attention paid to reproductive health; the lack of serious data regarding gender; a narrow vision of emancipation as being limited to attaining economic independence; and the failure to enable gender action at the local level. [37]

In 2012 the Bank finally admitted that reducing inequalities could not be reduced to “growth” alone, and an impressive report acknowledged that the Bank had placed too much emphasis on the reduction of inequalities as a contributing factor of growth rather than as an end in itself. But we should be wary of hailing a “change of paradigm.” The analysis remains centred on economics and seeking certain types of growth almost exclusively. [38]

Still in 2014, criticism continued to point to the fact that the World Bank neglects the importance of care work. A study established that of some thirty projects, 92% did not explicitly recognize the existence of unpaid care work in their design. [39]

In 2016, while touting [a] renewed strategy on gender equality” that will “enhance women’s voice and agency,” the Bank insists on the notion of “build[ing] on past achievements” and “removing the unique constraints [on economic opportunity] that hold back women and girls.”  [40] It also implemented a working group to address sexist violence – an initiative that was criticized for its extremely limited mandate and its silence regarding the violence engendered by the World Bank’s own projects.

What, then, is the point of the Bank’s Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) approach, implemented by the debtor countries? Despite the existence of guidelines containing suggestions regarding the inclusion of gender, there are no constraining measures. [41] For example, the programme for “better management” and “rationalization” of public administration in Serbia, imposed as a conditionality of a loan granted in 2016, resulted in the loss of nearly 30,000 jobs and a wage- freeze in the public sector, where women workers are in the majority. The PSIA mentions no social impact on poverty or on the distribution of wealth.

Although multidimensional analysis seems to be making progress, the years 2020 and 2021 confirm that the macroeconomic measures promoted by the Bank continue to worsen the situation of disadvantaged populations. After several decades of antisocial policies, health systems in particular proved to be in a weakened state in late 2019 on the eve of the global health crisis.

Despite the fact that the share of the budgets allocated to debt service Debt service The sum of the interests and the amortization of the capital borrowed. doubled in countries with low and medium income between 2010 and 2018, austerity measures, which have been shown to be ineffective as well as unfair, continue doggedly to be applied. The amount of resources allocated to public services was reduced by 18% in Latin America and in the Caribbean and by 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2014 and 2018. In at least 21 countries with low and medium income, budgets for education have been decreasing since 2015 as expenditures for debt service increase. As regards health budgets, that is the case for 39 countries, [42] with grave consequences for public health, health-care workers, community care, hospital capacities, etc. To that is added the reduction in access to drinking water in many regions. In such a context, how was the world to face the health crisis that broke out in 2020?

It is immediately evident that the weight of often incoherent political choices falls mainly on women. Women, being particularly numerous in the “essential” sectors, are on the front lines when it comes to burnout and risk of contamination. They are also in the majority among people for whom teleworking is impossible; in many regions it is the most disadvantaged ethnic groups who are in that situation. [43] Conversely, many women also have professions and occupations that are now prohibited and uncompensated since they are informal (domestic work, sex work, street vending, etc.) That aggravates economic inequalities. And as if that were not enough, their role as caregivers within families increases their exposure to CoViD-19 and increases their unpaid workload (caring for out-of-school children, making masks, etc.). Added to all of this, domestic violence and risks stemming from the complete neglect of reproductive and mental health are skyrocketing. The situation is not only dramatic; it was predictable. [44]

In such a context, the announcement of the moratorium by the World Bank, of the IMF’s “aid package” or of the possible restructuring of the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). are, at best, bad jokes for those whom neoliberalism has left behind. Without calling into question the very structure of the organization of care in our societies, such measures only postpone a debt burden which will have further increased and whose impact on women will be brutal. The World Bank’s priority remains the macroeconomic stability of the financial sectors, which is its justification for further austerity and exportation policies.

This crisis is not only the result of economic or health factors, but of our relation to life and to essential activities, our “taking care” of the world around us. The dominant relation, the one promoted by the World Bank’s ideologies, is a world away from being able to conceive of the environmental balance and collective well-being that could enable us to face such crises without always sacrificing the same people, thus turning them into unprecedented social crises.

 Conclusion

In its 2007 report, the World Bank sums up its “Objective” in these terms: “empowering women to compete in markets”:

  • product markets;
  • financial markets;
  • land markets;
  • labour markets. [45]
    But what does this vision of equality mean? As anticapitalist feminists have been saying for a long time, the discourse on equality does not help to fight forms of oppression, but only to move them around. We are being told that equality means equal opportunities to compete, to dominate. To excel in areas that have been considered exclusively masculine until now, to appropriate their codes, to break through the “glass ceiling” (while making the floor even stickier…) and become agents of the mechanisms of capitalist accumulation.

This vision of “feminism” is dangerous. Instead of talking about access to the structures of power, we should be discussing a radical questioning of power structures. What is necessary is not the reduction of individual economic obstacles but the creation of a collective dynamics in solidarity; a political force. The Bank does not support feminist demands; it maintains and provides life support to patriarchal, extractivist, racist finance.

The question, ultimately, is not whether or not certain local projects have supported women; nor is it simply to proclaim the fact that the World Bank has not done enough to reduce inequalities. The question, rather, is whether or not its political line has contributed to aggravating them. And the answer is yes. The World Bank continues to champion macroeconomic policies that have a negative impact on gender equity and that reinforce structural oppression, as its strategy for 2016 to 2023 clearly illustrates.

In 2016, Elisabeth Prügl referred to the World Bank’s new agenda as “neoliberalism with a feminist face.”  [46] In the Bank’s new discourse, analysis of gender inequalities is taken farther and farther, but the analysis is also more and more at the service of markets. In other words, feminist demands, more and more, are being manipulated, co-opted, and translated into market terms. For Prügl, whilst the intent of many of the “advances” and questionings of gender practices are reprehensible (for example, encouraging governments to invest in day-care facilities so that women can work more), they also open breaches that could be exploited in order to formulate truly feminist demands and alternatives.

All of these considerations add up to one more reason why the majority of debts should be cancelled, since – and this is no accident – they have not served the populations who bear their burden. That is why, as the CADTM and others are urging, what is needed is radical change rather than reforms within these institutions, which – whether it be the G20, the IMF, the World Bank or the UN – continue to sustain the institutionalization of feminism at the expense of the women it is meant to serve.

A feminist, and even an ecofeminist, perspective also leads us to ask the question of “who owes what to whom?” in a more general way. If we take into account all the invisible work that is done and the resources that are unscrupulously plundered and devastated, without compensation and with no effort to maintain balance, the equation changes. [47] A significant share of the world’s populations, and in particular of the dominant classes, in fact owe an immense debt – environmental, and also reproductive – to women.


Footnotes

[1Eric Toussaint, “Ecuador: Resistance against the policies imposed by the World Bank, the IMF and other creditors between 2007 and 2011” (CADTM.org, 15 April 2021) (cadtm.org/Ecuador-Resistance-against-the-policies-imposed-by-the-World-Bank-the-IMF-and) [accessed 07/10/2021].

[2Camille Bruneau, the author, uses the term “women” here in a pluralist and non-essentialist perspective: any person who identifies with or is assigned to the “feminine” gender and/or sex and who thereby is subject to a series of sexist and heteropatriarchal oppressions (cisgender women, transgender people, people who are non-binary, agender, gender fluid, etc.) She uses the “category” in a political perspective – that is, to analyze social relations of domination.

[3In addition to this book, see the analysis by Michael Goldman, in particular of environmental questions. He also deals with how the World Bank has historically imposed itself as a repository of knowledge, a fact which has enabled it to consolidate its hegemony. Michael Goldman, The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).

[4The notion of development is problematic for many reason – both the concept itself, which is normative and by fashioned a Western, Euro-centric ideology, and its historical origins, its political intentions, and its social, economic, environmental and cultural consequences. In summary, it is a tool of the neocolonialism and organized looting put in place following the independence of the former colonies in order to continue to control the worldwide organization of production and consumption, and as a result, of the distribution of wealth. It is clear that control over women’s productive and reproductive capacities (their bodies, their fertility) is an important and sometimes explicit dimension thereof. In addition to the so-called “post-development” theories and the many decolonial and anti-imperialist critiques, see articles that take a feminist view of the notion of development: Jules Falquet, “Analyzing Globalization from a Feminist Perspective”; Denise Comanne, “Quelle vision du développement pour les féministes” (CADTM.org, 2005) (cadtm.org/Quelle-vision-du-developpement-pour-les-feministes); Jules Falquet, “Femmes, féminisme et ‘développement’ : une analyse critique des politiques des institutions internationales” (Women, feminism, and ‘development’: a critical analysis of the policies of international institutions) in Jeanne Bisilliat (ed.), Regards de femmes sur la globalisation. Approches critiques (Paris: Karthala, 2003), pp. 75–112; Roger Herla, “Du Sud au Nord, impacts de mondialisation néolibérale sur le travail des femmes” (From North to South, impacts of neoliberal globalization on women’s work) (CVFE – Publications, 2018) (cvfe.be/sites/default/files/doc/ep-2018-6-du_sud_au_nord._impacts_de_la_mondialisation.pdf). (All in French).

[5The concept of “care work” refers to a set of material and psychological practices whose purpose is to provide a concrete response to the needs of others and of a community (or ecosystem).

The word “care” is preferred to “domestic” or “reproductive” since it includes the emotional and psychological dimensions (mental load, affection, support) and, for myself and as it is used here, is not limited to “private” and unpaid aspects but also includes paid activities that are necessary to the reproduction of human life.

[6Camille Bruneau, “La dette : une arme patriarcale déployée dans les pays du Sud” (Debt: A Patriarchal Weapon Deployed in the Global South) (AVP Dettes aux Suds, No. 77, 2019) (in French) (cadtm.org/La-dette-une-arme-patriarcale-deployee-dans-les-pays-du-Sud) [accessed 8/10/2021].

[7Jules Falquet, “Neoliberal Capitalism: An Ally for Women? Materialist and Imbricationist Feminist Perspectives” in Christine Verschuur, Hélène Guétat and Isabelle Guérin (eds.), Under Development: Gender (London: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 236–256.

[8Jules Falquet, Imbrication : Femmes, race et classe dans les mouvements sociaux (Imbrication: Women, Race and Class in Social Movements) (Vulaines-sur-Seine: Éditions du croquant, 2019) (in French)

[9Simon Kuznets, “Economic Growth and Income Inequality”

[10For a historical and critical analysis of the “inclusion” of women in “development” by the major international institutions, and in particular the UN, see the articles by Jules Falquet, “Femmes, féminisme et “développement” : une analyse critique des politiques des institutions internationales” and Denise Comanne, “Quelle vision du développement pour les féministes” cited above.

[11World Bank, World Bank Annual Report 2003 (documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/259381468762619763/pdf/270000PAPER0English0WBAR0vol-01.pdf) [accessed 11/10/2021]

[12World Bank Group, “World Bank Group Gender Strategy (FY16–23): Gender Equality, Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Growth” (Washington: World Bank, 2015 (documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/449711468762020101/pdf/28102.pdf) [accessed 17/11/2021]

[13World Bank, World Development Report 2006 – Equity and Development (openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/5988/WDR%202006%20-%20English.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y) [accessed 11/10/2021].

[14World Bank, “Gender Equality as Smart Economics: A World Bank Group Gender Action Plan” (Washington: World Bank, August 2006) (documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/295371468315572899/pdf/37008.pdf) [accessed 11/10/2021].

[15World Bank, 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development (Washington: World Bank, 2011) (DOI: 10.1596/978-0-8213-8810-5) [accessed 11/10/2021].

[16World Bank, Gender at Work: A Companion to the World Development Report on Jobs (Washington: World Bank, 2014) (worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/Gender/GenderAtWork_ExecutiveSummary.pdf) [accessed 12/10/2021].

[17World Bank, World Bank Group Gender Strategy (FY16-23): Gender Equality, Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Growth (Washington: World Bank, 2015) (openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/23425/102114.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y) [accessed 12/10/2021].

[18Christine Vanden Daelen, “Féminismes et Banque mondiale : un mariage ‘contre-nature’” (Feminism and the World Bank: an “unnatural” marriage) (CADTM.org, February 2020 ) (cadtm.org/Feminismes-et-Banque-mondiale-un-mariage-contre-nature) (in French) [accessed 12/10/2021].

[19World Bank Annual Gender Trust Funds Program Report (documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/465841467999715075/pdf/101061-AR-P133146-PUBLIC-Box393257B-WBG-GenderTrustFunds-Report-2015.pdf [accessed 16/11/2021].

[20Intersectionality is a concept taken from Black feminism, forged by the American jurist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to bring to light the existence of multiple discriminations heretofore invisibilized in the context of law within a segmented and hierarchized approach to discriminations. According to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), the intersectional approach takes into account those persons who are at the intersection of several sources of discrimination (e.g. being a woman, a Muslim, of foreign origin, etc.) and who are often victims of a new form of discrimination resulting from the accumulation of several characteristics. In sum, “Our working definition of intersectionality is very simple. We say that intersectionality is about fighting discrimination within discrimination, protecting minorities within minorities and tackling inequalities within inequalities.” (Emilia Roig, Center for Intersectional Justice (intersectionaljustice.org) in “Intersectionality as a Practice: an Interview with Emilia Roig” pocolit.com/en/2020/04/25/intersectionality-as-a-practice) [accessed 12/10/2021]. Decolonial feminists such as Françoise Vergès recall that this notion was already well integrated before the concept itself was recognized, for example within struggles against slavery. See Françoise Vergès, A Decolonial Feminism (London: Pluto Press, 2021).

[21Heloisa Marone, “Demographic Dividends, Gender Equality, and Economic Growth: The Case of Cabo Verde” (IMF Working Paper WP/16/169, August 9, 2016) (imf.org/-/media/Websites/IMF/imported-full-text-pdf/external/pubs/ft/wp/2016/_wp16169.ashx), cited in Lovisa Moller and Rachel Sharpe, “Women as ‘underutilized assets’–A critical review of IMF advice on female labour force participation and fiscal consolidation” (ActionAid International, 2017) (actionaid.org/publications/2017/women-underutilized-assets) [accessed 15/10/2021]

[22Agnès Adjamagbo and Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès, “L’émancipation féminine sous contrainte” (Women’s emancipation under constraint) (Presses Science Po, Autrepart, No. 61, 2012), pp. 3–21 (in French).

[23Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, “Impact of economic reforms and austerity measures on women’s human rights” (CADTM.org, 14 September 2018) (cadtm.org/Impact-of-economic-reforms-and-austerity-measures-on-women-s-human-rights) [accessed 13/10/2021].

[24Christine Vanden Daelen, “La dette, les PAS : analyse des impacts sur la vie des femmes” (Debt and SAPs: analysis of impacts on women’s lives) (CADTM.org, 1 May 2014) (cadtm.org/La-dette-les-PAS-analyse-des-impacts-sur-la-vie-des-femmes) (in French) [accessed 13/10/2021].

[25I stress the term “specifically” because the point is not to know who is more or less impacted, but to analyze specific impacts according to a person’s situation in terms of social relations of gender, class, race, etc.

[26It would be useful to recall that the capitalist system, and Western thought more generally, is based on a series of dualisms (“men” and “women” for example), one of which is a supposedly distinct frontier between “human” and “nature” or the “wild.” Humans are allowed to draw on, benefit from, exploit, modify, “make profitable,” tame, etc. the non-human as they see fit. Only afterward does the notion of ecology come into play, to repair the damage done to “the environment,” an entity that once again is considered as being fundamentally external to “ourselves.” At the centre of development, then, we find an objectifying relationship to “the environment,” whether it be to exploit it or to “protect” it.

[27Jules Falquet, “Analyzing Globalization from a Feminist Perspective”.

[28ICIJ (2015): “New investigation reveals 3.4m displaced by World Bank” (icij.org/inside-icij/2015/04/new-investigation-reveals-34m-displaced-world-bank) [accessed 15/10/2021].

[29ILO, Women at Work Trends 2016 (Geneva: ILO, 8 March 2016) (ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_457317/lang—en/index.htm) [accessed 15/10/2021].

[30Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, “Impact of economic reforms and austerity measures…”.

[31Iolanda Fresnillo and Verónica Serafini, “World Bank and IMF response to debt crisis undermines women’s rights” (CADTM.org, 10 April 2020) (cadtm.org/World-Bank-and-IMF-response-to-debt-crisis-undermines-women-s-rights) [accessed 27/12/2021].

[32In Kenya, the number of such products was reduced from 400 to 30 in a single year. See Mae Buenaventura and Claire Miranda, The IMF and Gender Equality: The gender dimensions of the IMF’s key fiscal policy advice on resource mobilisation in developing countries (Bretton Woods Project, 2017) (brettonwoodsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/IMF-and-Gender-Equality-VAT-1.pdf) [accessed 18/10/2021].

[33Frédérique Harrus, “Scolarité : quand les règles mettent les filles au ban de l’école” (Schooling: Menstruation keeps girls out of school) (Franceinfo, 2015) (francetvinfo.fr/monde/scolarite-quand-les-regles-mettent-les-filles-au-ban-de-l-ecole_3066825.html) (in French) [accessed 18/10/2021].

[34Eric Toussaint and Nathan Legrand, “Damning testimonies of microcredit abuse” (CADTM.org, 2018) (cadtm.org/Damning-testimonies-of-microcredit). The CADTM network has long denounced women’s being the victims of the abuses of microfinance. See also, for example, Nathan Legrand, “In Sri Lanka, Resistance to Private Indebtedness Is a Strategic Issue” (CADTM.org, 2020) (cadtm.org/In-Sri-Lanka-Resistance-to-Private-Indebtedness-Is-a-Strategic-Issue); Milford Bateman, “How the Bank’s push for microcredit failed the poor” (CADTM.org, 2017) (cadtm.org/How-the-Bank-s-push-for); Eric Toussaint, Sushovan Dhar, Nathan Legrand, Abul Kalam Azad, “Bangladesh: Harsh effects of the Grameen Bank and other microcredit institutions on the rural population” (CADTM.org, 2017) (cadtm.org/Bangladesh-Harsh-effects-of-the-Grameen-Bank-and-other-microcredit-institutions) [all accessed 28/12/2021].

[35Jules Falquet, “Femmes, féminisme et ‘développement’ : une analyse critique des politiques des institutions internationales” (Women, feminism and ‘development’: a critical analysis of the policies of the international institutions) (Canadian women’s studies/Les cahiers de la femme, 2003) (researchgate.net/publication/279495119_Femmes_feminisme_et_developpement_une_analyse_critiques_des_politiques_des_institutions_internationales) [accessed 18/10/2021] (translation: CADTM).

[36World Bank, “Applying Gender Action Plan Lessons: A three-Year Road Map for Gender Mainstreaming (2011-2013)” (World Bank, 2010) (documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/782711468012632778/pdf/547520BR0SecM2101Official0Use0Only1.pdf) [accessed 18/10/2021].

[37Elizabeth Arend, “Critique of the World Bank’s ‘Applying Gender Action Plan Lessons: A three-Year Road Map for Gender Mainstreaming (2011-2013)’” (GenderAction, 2010) (genderaction.org/publications/2010/critique_road_map.pdf) [accessed 18/10/2021].

[38Bretton Woods Project, “World Bank admits gender equality not just about growth” (BWP, 2014) (brettonwoodsproject.org/2014/03/world-bank-admits-gender-equality-just-growth) [accessed 18/10/2021].

[39Bretton Woods Project, “World Bank criticised for overlooking care work) (BWP: 2014) (brettonwoodsproject.org/2014/01/bank-criticised-overlooking-care-work/) [accessed 18/10/2021].

[40World Bank, “Update of World Bank Group Gender Strategy: Consultations” (consultations.worldbank.org/consultation/update-world-bank-group-gender-strategy-consultations [accessed 19/10/2021].

[41“In several instances, the Bank did not address the gendered impacts of reforms at all, which, according to its own guidance, would ‘inform policy interventions’, so that staff can ‘take these gender differences into account’ when designing operations. Where the Bank did assess potential negative gendered impacts, the proposed measures to reduce adverse effects were not always sufficient in mitigating these impacts or adequately addressing entrenched gender inequalities.” Ella Hopkins, “The World Bank and gender equality: Development Policy Financing” (Bretton Woods Project: 2019) (brettonwoodsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/The-World-Bank-and-Gender-Equality-DPF-2.pdf).

[42Eurodad, “How public services and human rights are being threatened by the growing debt crisis” (European Network on Debt and Development – Eurodad: 2020) (eurodad.org/how_public_services_and_human_rights_are_being_threatened_by_the_growing_debt_crisis) [accessed 20/10/2021].

[43Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, “Not everybody can work from home: Black and Hispanic workers are much less likely to be able to telework” (Economic Policy Institute, Working Economics Blog: 2020) (epi.org/blog/black-and-hispanic-workers-are-much-less-likely-to-be-able-to-work-from-home/) [accessed 09/03/22]

[44Taking gendered social relations into account, but also based on earlier experiences such as the Ebola epidemic.

[45World Bank, “Gender Equality as Smart Economics …”.

[46Elisabeth Prügl, “Neoliberalism with a Feminist Face: Crafting a new Hegemony at the World Bank” (Feminist Economics, Vol. 23, 2017).

[47Camille Bruneau, “An eco-feminist reading of debt to think differently about auditing” (AVP – Les Autres Voix de la Planète, No. 79, 4 November 2020) (cadtm.org/An-eco-feminist-reading-of-debt-to-think-differently-about-auditing) [accessed 20/10/2021].

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