Jaipur, October 30, 2020
A broader perspective on developmental aspects of trade is required, not limiting to just women’s entrepreneurship, but also by looking at their participation in the value-chain based economic activities
“Acquiring a good and detailed understanding of concrete hurdles and situations faced by women traders on the ground including categorising trade policy measures and type of female traders, identifying trade rules and making links with other non-trade policies should be the steps to support women in trade facilitation,” said Anoush der Boghossian, Trade and Gender Focal Point, World Trade Organisation.
She was speaking at a webinar organised by CUTS International and its partners from Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal under their project on ‘Gender Dimensions of Trade Facilitation: Evidence from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal’, which is supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. It was aimed to generate an informed discussion on potential benefits of gender-responsive trade facilitation measures in the BBIN sub-region.
“The WTO has been working on a dedicated program for women entrepreneurs and will be launching a new training program on trade rule in early 2021, aiming to develop women’s advocacy capacity,” she added.
Moderating the discussion, Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, said that unless we have a positive agenda for women’s economic empowerment through trade, we cannot think about gender dimensions of trade facilitation. It is essential because not only that the female labour force participation is low in our part of the world, but their participation in trade is much lower.
According to Selima Ahmad, a Member of Parliament from Bangladesh and President of Bangladesh Women Chambers of Commerce and India: “In order to enhance women’s participation in trade and other economic activities, it is an imperative to regularly collect gender-disaggregated data for different quantitative parameters by government agencies including qualitative information via consultative dialogues between authorities responsible for trade facilitation and women’s business associations and groups.”
In the BBIN sub-region, inadequate involvement of women in business and entrepreneurship has been observed due to social expectations, traditional gender norms, and little access to resources. “There is a need to initiate a discourse focusing on gender discrimination in trade and development matters in the BBIN sub-region and further explore the concept through political, social, and economic dimensions,” she added.
Speaking on the occasion, Bina Pradhan, a Gender Expert and Social Economist from Nepal underlined that “economic empowerment and gender equality are taken both as a goal as well as a pre-condition for achieving sustainable development, economic growth and poverty reduction.”
She added that, “In Nepal, women have not been involved in trade much, and their work is still not valued. Trade policies don’t look into the sectors in which women are productive.”
Ruba Rummana, Associate Professor in the Department of Arts and Science in the Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, Dhaka made a presentation of what is to be done in Bangladesh to enhance women’s participation in trade and economic activities, how they are to done and by whom.
She explained how cumbersome trade procedures, customs, and related fees fall heavily on women than on men. She recommended extending finances, marketing support services, business relationship, gender sensitisation of officers at the border posts, simplification and harmonisation of trade procedures for women will be beneficial.
According to Manju Giri, a Gender and Social Development Expert from Bhutan, while women folks of the Bhutanese society enjoy gender parity in sectors like education and health, trade and economic activities are areas where gender disparities remain visible.
“Gender-specific components should be included in trade, industrial, finance, and other economic policies, and policy-making should become more consultative. Also, there has to be gender-specific infrastructure in and around the border areas,” she added.
“Given that trade facilitation measures in our countries both at the border and behind-the-border are inadequate, they are further resulting in gender inequality in entrepreneurship development,” said Bibek Ray Chaudhary, Associate Professor of Economics at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Kolkata Centre.
“There is insensitivity on various points in the value chains towards the requirements of women entrepreneurs. Even when we are getting more and more economically developed, our mind-set about women’s participation in economic activities is yet to change fully. We cannot eliminate gender inequality in one go but have to take marginal steps towards that goal,” he added.
The conclusion arose out of the discussions underlined that countries with higher gender inequality tend to have high trade facilitation costs. Additionally, it was also observed that the absence of gender-responsive trade facilitation measures might exacerbate gender inequality.
The webinar concluded by emphasising on potential benefits in terms of higher trade if gender-responsive trade facilitation measures are implemented.
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