Genderwashing Meets Girl Power: The transnational politics of corporate-NGO partnerships for girls’ education

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Genderwashing Meets Girl Power: The transnational politics of corporate-NGO partnerships for girls’ education 

Childhood and Youth Studies Network Seminar with Dr Rosie Walters

All welcome. 


The first two decades of the twenty-first century saw the rise of girl power discourses in international development, which argue that when girls in the Global South are given an investment to stay in school, they will go on to lift entire communities out of poverty.  NGOs, governments, and international institutions began to champion girls as the ‘untapped resource’ the world had been waiting for. Transnational Corporations including clothing brands, IT firms, and car manufacturers, along with their philanthropic foundations, were keen to partner with, or even found, NGOs aimed at investing in the huge potential of adolescent girls. Yet many of these corporations face criticisms from activists that their very products, employment practices, or supply chains are harmful to women and girls, especially in the Global South. In this chapter, I explore several case studies to illustrate how corporate-NGO partnerships aimed at ‘empowering’ girls in the Global South can be seen as a form of transnational gender washing, aimed primarily at alleviating the concerns of publics in the Global North, while doing little to address harm experienced by stakeholders in the Global South. Conceptualising gender washing as a corporate appropriation of feminist language and aims, I explore how some of the world’s most famous brands have come to position themselves as empowerers of girls in the Global South despite historic, or even current, criticisms of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and child labour in their global supply chains.  Drawing on the work of feminist, postcolonial, and poststructuralist scholars working in international political economy, development studies, business studies, and public relations, I argue that girl power has become a means to corporate genderwashing. 




Dr Rosie Walters is a lecturer in international relations at Cardiff University. Her research explores discourses of girl power in international politics and how they are negotiated.






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