unctad.org | Global Women's Voice Conference
Statement by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
Global Women's Voice Conference
Mombasa, Kenya
15 Mar 2019


Gender inequality has important economic effects. 

According to McKinsey, there is a powerful argument for “the Power of Parity”:  in a full-potential scenario in which women play an identical role in labor markets to men’s, as much as $28 trillion, or 26%, could be added to global annual GDP in 2025, equivalent to the current GDP of the United States and China combined.  

In agriculture, according to FAO estimates, if rural women worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent, with a raise in total agricultural output of between 2.5–4 percent and positive repercussions on global food security.  

Families in which women influence economic decisions generally allocate more income to food, health, education and children’s nutrition. 

Increased women’s influence within the household translates into youth who are better fed, better educated and better equipped to make productive contributions to the economy and society.

Trade can help and hurt gender equality. 

Trade has great potential to foster economic growth and development, but it can leave many at risk of being excluded or marginalized.

Indeed, there is growing awareness that the gains from trade are unequally distributed and that trade impacts different segments of the population, including men and women, in different ways. In turn, gender inequalities impact trade and other economic outcomes. 

Efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment must focus on making sure that trade becomes an instrument of sustainable and inclusive development, and that it leaves no one behind.

Gender inclusion in trade also can be stimulater by integrating gender into policies for Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology and Innovation, Trade Facilitation and so on. 

Gender equality is not a natural outcome of the development process in East Africa. 

The two largest economies in the region - Kenya and Tanzania - are also the ones with the highest levels of gender inequality according to UNDP Gender Inequality Index 2015. 

Trade has shifted women’s employment in EAC, but has not sufficiently empowered women. 

Agriculture remains the dominant sector of employment in EAC, especially for women. However, regional integration and overall trade openness have contributed to a shift of female employment away from agriculture and towards services.

Women are predominantly found in vulnerable employment, working on their own as micro or small entrepreneurs or as non-paid workers in family activities. Conversely, men are more commonly found in regular wage employment. 

In the manufacturing sector, regional integration and overall integration into world markets led to an increase in women employment in the traditional blue-collar category.

This means that women in the region have been hired as unskilled and low-skilled workers to perform simple tasks such as maintenance and assembly line work. But trade openness at the regional and global level has not brought about more employment opportunities for women in the so-called white-collar tasks, implying higher level of responsibilities, including managerial responsibilities, and higher salaries.

So, increased trade integration has indeed provided new employment opportunities for women, and this is a welcome step, but not the kind of opportunities that may empower women and close gender gaps. 

Persistent gender inequalities in the region underline the importance of putting in place policies to ensure that women fully benefit from international trade in EAC. 

This includes closing the gender gap in secondary and tertiary education and putting in place skill development programmes that would allow women to match the skill requirements of higher-value-added sectors.

A regional credit mechanism could support women entrepreneurs across EAC member states, since existing country-level mechanisms have proved insufficient and not uniform.

Gender chapters should be included in future trade agreements negotiated by the region. EAC could establish a regional platform to exchange good practices among EAC members. EAC also needs a monitoring framework to check the implementation of the EAC Gender Equality Bill, an important piece of regional legislation on gender equality.

These recommendations touch upon several areas and are addressed to different stakeholders - Ministries of Trade, of Gender, of Labour; civil society, and regional institutions, such as the EAC secretariat. Indeed, gender equality goals can be achieved only through a coordinated and coherent approach that involves different institutions and different policies at the country and regional levels.


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