Business World, October 31, 2020
Fecilitation of women traders on the ground in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) region is the need of the hour and to do that identifying trade rules and making links with other non-trade policies are important.
“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 Anoushder Boghossian, Trade and Gender Focal Point, World Trade Organisation.
Boghossian was speaking on Friday at a webinar organised by CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) International and partners, under the project on ‘Gender Dimensions of Trade Facilitation: Evidence from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal’. It is supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
The webinar 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.
Meanwhile, moderator for the session, Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, said unless there is a positive agenda for women’s economic empowerment through trade, “we cannot think about gender dimensions of trade facilitation”. He added that only is the participation of female labour force low in this part of the world, but their participation in trade is even lower.
According to Selima Ahmad, a Member of Parliament from Bangladesh and President of Bangladesh Women Chambers of Commerce and India, there is a need 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.”
She further blamed social expectations, traditional gender norms, and little access to resources for the inadequate involvement of women in business.
“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,” Ahmad said.
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.”
Speaking about the conditions in Nepal, she added, “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.”
Meanwhile, as per Manju Giri, a Gender and Social Development Expert from Bhutan, while womenfolk enjoy gender parity in sectors like education and health in the Bhutanese society, the disparities are visible in trade and economic activities.
“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,” Giri said.
Bibek Ray Chaudhary, Associate Professor of Economics at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Kolkata Centre, said inadequate trade facilitation measures in the BBIN countries “both at the border and behind-the-border” are resulting in gender inequality in entrepreneurship development.
“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,” Chaudhary said.
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, by whom and where, measures are needed to be taken in Bangladesh to enhance women’s participation in trade and economic activities.
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.
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