Magazine article International Trade Forum

Building Gender into International Development Goals

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Building Gender into International Development Goals

Article excerpt

If you are in the business of poverty reduction, you have to believe in free trade. Trade is the engine of economic growth. It creates the wealth needed to build more schools, develop more health facilities and provide safe drinking water. The Government of the United Kingdom is committed to helping developing countries use trade to promote growth and development and lift more people out of poverty. Helping women to play a greater role in this process is a key part of our work.

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Women already play a crucial role in economic production and trade--as workers, producers, entrepreneurs and cross-border traders. Eighty per cent of the world's 50 million jobs in export processing zones are held by women, and women dominate the agricultural sector, producing more than half of the world's foodstuffs.

But despite representing 40% of the global labour force, women own just 1% of the world's wealth and only have a 10% share of global income. It is no wonder, then, that they account for 70% of the world's poor.

Breaking down the barriers that prevent women from establishing their own businesses and gaining access to markets is one of the best investments British aid can make towards tack ling poverty. When a woman generates her own income, she can, and generally does, re-invest her profits in ways that can drive long-term, inter-generational change: through the education of her children, health care for her family and improving the quality of her housing.

That is why, as part of wider efforts to place women at the heart of our development work, the Government of the United Kingdom is determined to give more of the world's poorest women the tools and support they need to start a business and access markets to trade.

We see our longstanding relationship with the International Trade Centre (ITC) as crucial to our efforts to economically empower women -because of its ability to work at both the macro level, creating partnerships between women's businesses in poor countries and major multinationals, and at the micro level, creating income opportunities for poor women through trade.

British aid has played its part in helping 7,000 women from some of the most marginalized communities in East Africa to get jobs through ITC's Ethical Fashion Initiative, which enables international fashion companies to develop product lines that draw on skills and materials from Africa. This innovative project has led the way for others to enter the space where fashion, retail, trade and poverty reduction meet.

The government also supports ITC's efforts to encourage Fortune 500 companies, governments and institutions to increase procurement from women vendors in poor countries. Those who sign up to the Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors project commit not only to sourcing more goods from women-owned businesses that offer competitive products and services, but also to promoting the benefits to other organizations.

The first Global Platform conference, held in Chongqing in September 2011, led directly to US$ 14.8 million worth of contracts for women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

These are just two examples of how we are specifically targeting British aid to support women and trade. Wherever possible, we ensure that all of our work on economic growth and the private sector benefits women and gifts in developing countries.

Empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect on economic growth and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, The United Kingdom will remain committed to working with ITC and a range of other partners to ensure that, as developing countries play a larger role in world trade, the poorest women can be among the key actors. …

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