The United Nations has set poverty alleviation and gender equality as critical development goals for the millennium. There is increasing recognition that business, as the primary source of wealth creation, can play a key role in achieving these goals. Women are disproportionately represented among the poor, but their economic activities are often the sole source of income for families, particularly in developing countries. And while they have had some success in selling their handicrafts and other processed goods domestically, they face obstacles in accessing global markets.
The partnership is thus aimed at enhancing export opportunities and increasing earnings for home-based women workers and women microentrepreneurs while promoting sustainable and gender-sensitive methods of production. To be known as the Trade Initiative for Poverty Alleviation and Gender Equality, the partnership will help its target beneficiaries to develop competitive and marketable products and to comply with the regulations and standards of production demanded by global consumers.
The Geneva meeting will be attended by representatives of such retailers and importers as Coop, Migros, Schilliger, Catambo and Fair Trade Village, all of Switzerland; Ikea of Sweden; British Importers of Canada; Artisans du Monde of France; and the UK-based International Fair Trade Association. Three women entrepreneurs from the Self-Employed Women´s Association (SEWA) of India, Acao Communitaria of Brazil and Talking Beads of South Africa will also take part.
The meeting is part of the preparatory process for the eleventh United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XI), to be held in São Paulo, Brazil, from 13 to 18 June. The relationship between trade and gender is one of three cross-cutting issues to be considered at the conference, which is aimed at building the consensus needed to bridge the gaps between the national and international visions of development and harness the power of trade for development and poverty reduction. For more information, see www.unctadxi.org.