Course equips officials to bridge gender gaps in trade policy

25 June 2020

Training sessions saw participants from 59 countries also share experiences on the economic and gender effects of the coronavirus pandemic in their nations.


Woman takes notes during online training session.

Stacey Pinto recently started working as a trade adviser at the British High Commission in Namibia after years in the private sector.

She has a renewed drive to help the country craft policy solutions to problems that preclude women from fully contributing to and benefiting from economic activities after completing the 2020 edition of UNCTAD’s online course on trade and gender.

“I’m now more prepared to help close the gender gap that stifles economic progress,” she said at the end of the seven-week course held between March and May.

Ms. Pinto is among 162 women and 66 men from 59 countries who took the course, a unique capacity-building initiative that equips participants with knowledge on the nexus between trade and gender, boosting their capacity to support gender-responsive policies.

This year, the course was offered in English, Spanish and French for the first time, broadening its audience.

“Involving stakeholders from Latin America and French-speaking countries in Africa was a big achievement,” said Simonetta Zarrilli who leads UNCTAD's programme on trade, gender and development.

“Moreover, distance learning proved particularly effective as any other approach wouldn’t have been feasible due to the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Trade-gender links high on policy agenda

The course equipped the participants to better contribute to policymaking and research on the links between trade and gender, a topical issue.

“Thanks to the course, I'm more aware of what is relevant when analysing trade from a gender perspective,” said Amilcar Monteiro, a public policy consultant in Cabo Verde.

“The nexus between trade and gender is not easy to grasp immediately,” said Diarra Doumbouya, deputy director at the investments’ ministry in Guinea, “but the course allowed me to step back and better understand it.”

“Learning how trade shapes everyday life and impacts women and men differently was eye-opening,” said Noemi Sanz, a researcher at Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in Argentina.

Gendered effects of COVID-19

The course also offered the participants a platform to share experiences on the economic and gender effects of the coronavirus pandemic in their countries. 

For instance, they learned that Kenya’s flower sector lost around $300,000 a day due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

“Workers have been sent home due to downsizing and closure of businesses,” said Magdaline Morijoi, a trade development officer in the country. “Women have been affected the most as they comprise a large number of workers in this sector.”

Following the course, several participants are eager to apply their newly acquired knowledge. “I’ll carry out research on women’s participation in cross-border trade in Kenya,” said Beatrice Kinyua, a trade development officer at the country’s industry and trade ministry. “The findings will inform future trade facilitation negotiations.”

Participants are also committed to sharing the knowledge within their organizations. “The course has empowered me to strengthen my colleagues’ capacity to deal with gender issues,” said Bengu Guvercin, an inspector at Turkey’s trade ministry.    

Nearly all the participants in the English and Spanish sessions opted for an extra week of learning the specificities of trade and gender linkages in the context of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).

Overall, 54% of the participants rated the course as exceeding their expectations, while 44% said it had fully met their expectations. “This is an excellent result that encourages us to further develop and expand this initiative,” Ms. Zarrilli said.

UNCTAD has trained over 1,100 stakeholders from 148 countries on trade and gender since 2015, thanks to the support of the government of Finland. They are now advancing the cause of gender equality in trade in their countries.