Under the current dominant economic model, whose priorities and needs are being cared for? Specifically before, during, and after conflict, how do economic, political, and social policies exacerbate or reduce inequalities, and what are the gendered impacts of these policy decisions? Who has the authority to make these decisions in the first place?
On 18 March, WILPF held a workshop with Young WILPF members and MENA partners on feminist political economy, to address some of these questions from a feminist peace perspective. The discussion was led by Nela Porobić Isaković, Coordinator of WILPF’s Women Organising for Change in Bosnia Project and WILPF’s focal point on political economy. Zarin Hamid, Programme Manager for the Women, Peace and Security Programme, welcomed Nela and the participants, and introduced the concept for the workshop which was originally planned to take place during CSW64 in New York. The workshop was attended by WILPF members and partners who were originally planning to come to CSW from different parts of the world, including from Australia, Yemen, Japan, Sweden, and Lebanon.
The opening presentation introduced the concept of a feminist political economy analysis to the participants, and outlined the value of bringing a feminist political economy lens to advocacy work conducted by human rights and peace activists as well as others. Although feminist political economy looks specifically at the gendered aspects of economic, political, and social policies, the presentation highlighted that this frame of analysis does not box us in, but rather opens up our ways of seeing the world to also look at other intersections, such as class, age, urban/rural divides, race, and disability.
The current dominant economic framework of capitalism, manifested in neoliberal policies, is frequently presented as “neutral” and an “objective” way to look at economic realities. In response to this, feminist political economy analysis makes visible the interconnections between production and reproduction, formal and informal economies, and asymmetric power relations, as well as the different harms that are perpetuated under the capitalist framework. Participants were introduced to a methodology for conducting a feminist political economy analysis, including a myriad of questions and topics that can be explored under a feminist political economy framework, which can assess for example, investment in public goods, environmental degradation, care economies, and remittances.
Participants then analyzed their own contexts within a feminist political economy framework. Members from WILPF Japan highlighted the varied impacts of US military bases that have been built in parts of Japan despite the opposition of the local population, and how these bases carry associated economic and gendered impacts on communities. The current situation with COVID-19 was also raised by several participants, including in the context of xenophobic policies in Sweden and other European countries, the unique threats to political prisoners incarcerated in Egyptian prisons during the pandemic, as well as the broader underinvestment in public goods under neoliberalism. In Yemen, a current conflict country, one participant identified the importance of looking at differential impacts of violations and harms on different groups.
WILPF will be continuing the discussion on FPE with its members and partners as a powerful way to make visible the realities that dominant economic thinking seeks to obscure. In the context of conflict and post-conflict settings, this will be be a critical tool for analyzing lived reality of affected communities, and paving a way forward to inclusive, sustainable peace.