Magazine article International Trade Forum

Unleashing the Potential of Women for a Better Future

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Unleashing the Potential of Women for a Better Future

Article excerpt

The adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000 was a turning point in international development. Since then, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have served to mobilize international support for human development in a range of key areas.

Still, recent MDG progress reports have shown that much remains to be done, especially when it comes to trade and the economy. MDG 3, for example, to promote gender equality and empower women, is focused on education and leadership and less on the challenges women face as economic participants. The distribution of the benefits of trade has major implications for national economic growth.

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The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has found that the true beneficiaries of trade can be determined by the degree of trade openness, the nature and sequencing of trade policies, existing productive capacities and the structure of the economy (Trade and Gender: Issues and Interactions, 2005). MDG 8, meanwhile, identified discrimination as a constraint to inclusive trade but did not address gender inequality.

Governments, UN agencies, civil society, activists, academics and experts are joining forces to shape the post-2015 development framework. There is widespread agreement that unlocking the economic and political potential of women will be critical to the success of this new agenda.

Addressing the nature of global trade is essential. Recent studies by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on women and trade in Angola, the Gambia and Lesotho show that, while men are relatively evenly distributed across all sectors of the economy, women face an uphill battle thanks to the burden of unpaid care work and other domestic tasks (Trade policy and Gender Inequalities: A Country-Based Analysis, 2012). Women are overrepresented in low-value-added, low-productivity or subsistence-oriented work. They also suffer from a lack of access to training, credit and vital productive resources.

It is clear that discrimination has kept women clustered in particular sectors. These constraints make women less likely to enter non-traditional sectors, locking them out of high-growth trade opportunities. Gender wage gaps also increase women's economic vulnerability. Women can be important players in global trade if these barriers are removed and they have access to the means and opportunity to participate. …

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