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Gender Equality & Trade Policy

Gender Equality and Trade Policy
Women in Business Award 2010, Photo © UNCTAD

IX. The Way Forward

Including gender perspectives in trade policy and related agreements is an essential element of an integrated development policy framework which combines social and economic measures to ensure fairer and beneficial outcomes for all. Trade can have strong and varying effects on the overall wellbeing of different groups of economic actors, including women, which require adequate and specific policy responses.

While trade policies need to become gender-responsive, other measures not directly related to trade are also necessary if both women and men —and the economy as a whole— are to reap the full benefits of trade expansion. These include education, employment, fiscal and social policies, and, above all, policies that enhance productive capacities. Women’s education and continuing skills acquisition are likely to be the most important factors determining the impact of trade on women’s economic opportunities and on reducing the gender wage gap. As long as women remain less qualified than men, they are likely to remain in lower paying, less secure jobs, even if better-paying jobs become available through trade expansion. Improving women's access to education, technology and skills, on the other hand, implies a change in attitudes and in socio-cultural norms, as well as a more equitable distribution of household chores between men and women; moreover, it cannot happen without addressing the "time poverty" issue.

Two common shortcomings should be avoided when mainstreaming gender in trade policy. First, - the "adding-on" shortcoming - consists of making gender considerations an after-thought; in other words, gender-differentiated impacts of trade policy and trade agreements are evaluated once the most crucial phases of trade policy formulation and negotiation are already completed. The second - the "evaporation" shortcoming - consists of discussing and assessing gender- related issues during trade policy formulation and negotiations but failing to include concrete measures in the core of trade agreements and trade laws.

The United Nations supports governments and civil society organizations to undertake actions to enhance the inclusion of gender perspectives in trade policies. The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of these actions divided into two main categories, namely Gender equality policies and Women's Empowerment:

Gender equality policies
  • Support developing countries' capacity to assess the gender dimensions of trade policies through country case studies and training of policy makers and trade negotiators.
  • Produce sound and reliable data to evaluate the gendered impacts of different trade measures and instruments.
  • Gather evidence on possible trade and other complementary policies and measures necessary to enable women to benefit from trade, or to reduce the negative impacts that trade may have on them.
  • In parallel or prior to the negotiation of trade agreements, provide inputs for the elaboration of gender assessments of such agreements, as part of a broader human development impact assessment; and support countries to monitor the impact of such agreements on women's empowerment and gender equality during implementation.
  • Support countries' national and/or regional efforts to increase coherence among different but interlinked policies, such as trade, development, employment, migration and gender equality.
  • Support advocacy platforms of women informal traders for promoting an enabling environment for their business and access to better services.
  • Support the inclusion of gender considerations into multilateral development cooperation frameworks, such as UNDAF, AfT and EIF.
  • Develop specific training programmes for women entrepreneurs to enhance their participation in world trade.
  • Support countries in collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data, including those related to informal traders, and on designing appropriate questionnaires and evaluating the information gathered.
Women's empowerment and participation
  • Support broad-based effective participation of women and women’s groups in trade consultations and negotiations as well as in trade policy-making and related implementation.
  • Facilitate the exchange of views and experiences among women engaged in trade negotiations and policy formulation and implementation.
  • Facilitate contacts, coaching and sharing of experiences among women entrepreneurs.
  • Facilitate the linkages between women-owned/managed micro and small enterprises and larger national or multinational firms.

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