Advancing an equitable and gender-responsive trade agenda Stories

25 March, 2021

Trade has profound impacts on women as workers, consumers, and family members.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply disrupted global trade and disproportionately affected women in the workforce, especially in sectors that are heavily export-oriented and dominated by female labour, like the garment industry. Overall, in developing countries, women employed by businesses involved in international trade make up 33 percent of the workforce, compared with just 24 percent in non-exporting firms, according to the World Bank and WTO.

In many parts of Africa, trade disruptions associated with COVID-19 have increased the price of critical agricultural inputs, like seeds and fertilizer, which are essential to sustain smallholder farming and nutritious lives. The COVID-19 crisis has increased economic insecurity, affected livelihoods, and shifted the burden of care for loved ones to an even greater extent on women.

These are just a few examples demonstrating how trade affects women in a different manner to men, particularly in times of crisis. Taking a gender-informed and gender-sensitive approach to trade policy formulation and implementation is critical to reducing vulnerabilities and maximizing economic opportunities for people and societies.

Cowater International has been implementing a diverse portfolio of trade projects that prioritize gender equality. Among them is the Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund (TAF2+), funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. TAF2+ provides technical assistance to developing countries in trade and investment negotiations and integrates gender and social inclusion considerations as part of its support.

TAF2+ has been engaged in building the capacity of policymakers in gender and social aspects of trade negotiations through TAF2+’s Gender, Social Inclusion and Trade (GST) Grant. The project has also been supporting knowledge transfer between countries on issues of gender and trade. In the Dominican Republic, TAF2+ provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Women on trade tools to promote the economic empowerment of women.

In Ecuador, TAF2+ supported the provision of expertise across a number of ministries, including the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, on mainstreaming gender into trade negotiations.

In the Gambia, at the request of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Ministry of Trade, TAF2+ provided capacity building to address data needs, coordination among government ministries and policy formulation to advance women’s empowerment and support rural women entrepreneurs in the aftermath of COVID-19. TAF2+ also worked with the Ministry of Women and Ministry of Trade in Burkina Faso in the context of post-COVID-19 recovery, building capacity for mainstreaming gender into trade policies and programmes in the country.

In line with the project’s strong focus on knowledge generation and dissemination, TAF2+’s GST Grant has produced technical studies and analysis on specific themes that will support the implementation of national, regional and international commitments on gender equality, social inclusion and trade. In addition, TAF2+ is supporting a GST Working Group, a platform for peer learning, knowledge sharing and networking.  Information on the GST Working Group and how to join, along with key resources and knowledge products produced by the GST Grant can be accessed at the following link: Gender, Social Inclusion and Trade.

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