“Nothing about us without us” or “The most effective way to get it implemented”? Global South Workers’ Power in Australian Civil Society Initiatives in the Garment Sector

Karinda Flavell, Samanthi J. Gunawardana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Australian NGO and trade union initiatives seek to improve conditions for women garment workers in the global South. This small-scale study sought perceptions of Australian-based civil society staff about the power of garment workers within such initiatives. Deploying a feminist political economy perspective, the study draws on feminist notions of power and the power resources approach. It looks beyond long-established sources of power (structural, associational, and institutional) to explore coalitional and discursive power. The theoretical framework emphasises the importance of discursive power, including social norms that impact power. The study highlights the potential for Australian civil society groups to perpetuate the dominant discourse of women worker’s ‘docility’ or to challenge it, including through amplifying worker voice. The findings indicate that obtaining coalitional power (power workers gain by joining with allies other than workers) requires workers to have some associational (collective) power among themselves, highlighting the interrelations of power resources and the limitations of substituting associational with coalitional power. These findings have implications for global North groups seeking to prevent garment worker exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-170
Number of pages20
JournalJournal fur Entwicklungspolitik
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • feminist political economy
  • garment workers
  • global supply chains
  • power resources

Cite this