Our programme on Transforming Economics and Development through a Feminist Approach (TrEAD) uses the concepts of substantive equality, non-discrimination and state obligation to interrogate the economic growth and sustainable development agendas, and to disrupt the continued application by global actors of economic policies that harm and undermine the human rights of women and girls. It recognises that macroeconomic and development policies that are not accountable to the rights of people and the needs of the planet are a threat to human rights. It seeks to critically analyse and challenge dominant global macroeconomic and development discourses by mobilising women’s rights organisations around a feminist agenda rooted in the priorities of marginalised groups of women.
We need to understand and demystify global macroeconomic and development structures and their impact on the daily lives of women. We must familiarise ourselves with strategic pressure points, collaborate with feminist economists on developing evidence-based solutions and alternatives for transformative change, and find or create ways to meaningfully participate in research and policy discussions on the gender impacts of macroeconomic and development policies – while challenging the dominant orthodoxies and ideologies that underpin the current unjust and unequal economic order. Through this approach, the programme highlights not only the detrimental impact of conventional macroeconomic and development policies on women’s human rights, but also the potential of a feminist agenda for the development of a just, equal, and democratic economic order that improves well-being for all, underscored by international solidarity and a duty to cooperate.
We also connect these policies to state obligations under CEDAW, particularly the obligation to guarantee women the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of substantive equality and non-discrimination. While feminists have been at the forefront of economic justice advocacy for decades, gaps still exist between the women’s rights movement and efforts to develop on-the-ground responses to macroeconomic and development policies, including taxation, fiscal spending and debt repayment, and trade and investment policies. There is great potential in the women’s rights movement to advance macroeconomic and development discourses. We need to tap into their expertise and activism and build cross-movement momentum among women’s rights, land rights and labour rights groups, among others, to have stronger advocacy impact at national, regional and international level. To help us move together towards this goal, IWRAW Asia Pacific has developed a Gender Equality and Macroeconomics Starter Kit that aims to demystify economic policies and institutions, while challenging mainstream orthodoxies that deepen inequality.