This article demonstrates that the inability of the United Nations Women, Peace and Security agenda to realize greater peace and security for women in post-war states stems to a great extent from its failure to engage deeply with the materiality of women’s lives under economic empowerment projects. We argue that the Women, Peace and Security agenda reproduces a neoliberal understanding of economic empowerment that inadequately captures the reality of women’s lives in post-war settings for two reasons: first, it views formal and informal economic activities as dichotomous and separate, rather than as intertwined and constitutive of each other; and, second, it conceptualizes agency as individual, disembodied, abstract, universalizing and conforming to the requirements of the competitive pressures of the market. The article then offers a three-pronged postcolonial-feminist framework to analyse international interventions in which representation, materiality and agency are interconnected. We argue that such a framework helps understand better who is empowered in post-war economies and how they are empowered. This, in turn, makes visible how post-war economies produce gendered and racialized (in)securities that need to be addressed by the Women, Peace and Security agenda. With this, we also hope to reflect on broader international political economy concerns about the problems of making conceptual distinctions between politics and economics, and to challenge the constructed borders between materiality and discourse that have pervaded peace and conflict studies.