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Stephanie Barrientos

Women play an important role across global value chains, but gender inequality is pervasive. The gender dynamics of global value chains are shaped by the diverse socio-economic contexts and geographies in which they are embedded. This chapter draws on the concepts of economic and social downgrading to develop a gender perspective to global value chain analysis. It examines three dimensions of the gender dynamics in GVCs. First it provides a gender profile of the different segments of value chains linking consumers, retailers, distribution, producers and farmers, drawing on examples from the agrifood value chain supplying UK supermarkets. This identifies nodes where women and men are concentrated, and their respective gender roles in facilitating the operation of global value chains. Second, it focuses on the production end, drawing on a case study from South African horticulture. It examines how global sourcing from developing countries is embedded in gender norms and labour market institutions that systemically undervalue women’s work and skills. It argues that the gendered combination of low cost and skill has enabled value enhancement and capture at the buyer end of value chains, and reinforced a gender division of labour in which women workers remain largely relegated as a source of cheap labour. Third, it examines how global value chains have opened up leverage for civil society advocacy and campaigns at the consumer end that often challenge prevailing gender norms, and create opportunities for women workers with sufficient bargaining power and skill capabilities to socially upgrade within some value chain nodes.

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Stephanie Barrientos