Toolbox helps governments ensure trade empowers women

28 September 2017

New trade measures or agreements can end up holding women back in an economy, but a new toolbox offers a way for policy makers to head off the risk before such accords come into force, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant has told a public session at the World Trade Organization.

Some 70% of those living in extreme poverty are women. And because women and men often play different roles in society and tend to have different jobs in the economy, new trade measures and agreements could inadvertently have an adverse effect on women.

But if governments were to assess the impact beforehand, policy makers could put in place necessary counter measures to ensure trade growth benefits women equally.

“The UNCTAD toolbox allows us to identify in each agreement the implications for gender… will this have indirect or direct effects on women, on their inclusion in the economy,” Ms. Durant said, adding that evidence shows that more inclusive economies are also more competitive.

The UNCTAD Trade and Gender Toolbox methodology supports policy makers who want to get a clear picture of which productive sectors affect women most, and allows them to measure the likely impact of future trade reforms on women's livelihoods in these and other sectors.

The toolbox was launched earlier this year. Developed with the support of the Swedish government, it was recently used to assess how the possible trade deal between the European Union and the East African Community could affect female employment in manufacturing and agriculture in Kenya.

Ms. Durant was speaking at a session of the WTO Public Forum, an annual event held in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s edition runs from Tuesday to Thursday. The theme is “Trade: Behind the Headlines”.

There is a global consensus that gender equality and women's economic empowerment are key elements to achieve the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Setting out the clear benefits and then providing countries with the tools to set the right trade policies are key aims for UNCTAD.