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The IMF and the World Bank

Founded in 1944 and housed in Washington, DC, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are the architects of the global economy. They impose their policies on over 80 Third World countries, to further the global corporate agenda at the expense of people, subsistence economies, and the environment. Through past loans, often to unelected governments, these institutions now keep most nations of the global South in poverty.

Ignored in most discussions of the IMF and World Bank are the impact they have on virtually every aspect of the lives of women in Third World countries--from women’s access to health care and education, to where they live, to what they produce and consume.

For women in Asia, IMF policies demanding export-based growth has meant that women themselves often become the exports. Because of such policies, women migrants to the Middle East from Indonesia increased from 8,000 in 1979 to over 100,000 today.

Filipino women composed more than 60% of the 675,000 documented overseas workers in 1994. Most of these women are made to work as domestics or as prostitutes, where they are subjected to harsh living conditions, and are vulnerable to abuse and violence. Mortality rates of Filipino migrants are far above the national average.

Of the 2,800 Filipino maids who work in the US, 2,000 of them are employed by staff at the World Bank and the IMF.

Female migrants from the Philippines outnumber male migrants by 12 to 1.

During the Asian financial crisis, caused by policies of the IMF, World Bank, and foreign investors, the wages of young Indonesian girls and women making Nike shoes went from $2.46 a day to about $1 a day.

As poverty deepens in Indonesia due to the Asian financial crisis, 50 - 100 women are brought into the pimping industry each month.

IMF and World Bank policies make credit prohibitively expensive to women. Instead of starting or maintaining their own enterprises, women are pushed into working for low wages in export industries, where they are vulnerable to losing their livelihoods at any time.

The policies of the global financial institutions make small and medium-size enterprises particularly vulnerable to collapse. At the same time, the Structural Adjustment Programs imposed on Third World countries force governments to cut back on social programs. Women are the first to be laid off in both the private and public sectors.

IMF-imposed responses to financial troubles in South Korea are expected to result in the demise of 53,000 small and medium enterprises, where women make up the largest portion of workers.

In Thailand, 80% of the unskilled workers laid off over a recent 8-month period were women.

Women’s unemployment has increased in Eastern Europe due to IMF-induced recessions, privatizations, and government cutbacks. Women’s unemployment averages 70% in Armenia, Russia, Bulgaria, and Croatia, and topped 80% in the Ukraine.

In Africa, where women farmers grow most of the continent’s food, the per capita food production declined 2% a year during the 80s, while food imports increased dramatically, as a result of the IMF’s shifting of resources into export-crop production.

The World Bank has collaborated with the displacement, even killings, of indigenous peoples. In 1982, the World Bank aligned itself with a brutal dictatorship in Guatemala. The village of Rio Negro stood in the way of the World Bank’s plans to construct a hydroelectric dam. After villages refused to relocate from their ancestral lands, the World Bank allowed the army to massacre 400 Maya, mostly women and children.

(sources: 50 Years is Enough and Global Exchange)

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