Stockholm University, Sweden
This paper examines corporate solutions to gender inequality in the global South. In ongoing debates, a number of authors have argued that notions of female empowerment have come to justify contemporary economic relations, simultaneously making it difficult to address existing inequalities within global divisions of labor (Fraser 2009; Eisenstein 2009; Roberts 2014). Others have argued that corporate attention to empowerment have multiple, also potentially beneficial, effects on gender equality and civil society influence (Grosser & Moon 2005; Ferguson 2009; Prügl & True 2014). In order to engage with feminist understandings of the apparent support from business for some of its concerns, focus is placed on the Coca-Cola Company’s campaign “5by20” that aims to empower 5 million women in their role as small-scale entrepreneurs around the world by 2020. Important partners are the UN Women, governments, private businesses and NGOs. Based on interviews with company representatives, partner organizations, participants and participatory observations carried out in Mexico and South Africa, the paper discusses the meanings attached gender equality, the strategies employed to enhance female empowerment and what kind of societal transformations these initiatives open up for. The aim is to examine how the campaign is being elaborated in conjuncture with civil society organization, enforcing particular ideas about gender and labour. Thus, the paper explores gender equality promotion initiatives against the backdrop of conflicting tenants; market solutions on the one hand and formations of collectivity around work on the other hand. The paper contributes to the understanding of how TNCs frame the organization of production and work, thus shaping the possibilities for gender and class-based collective demands for economic justice in the wake of corporate competitiveness interests.