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Training helps more women in least developed countries benefit from trade

02 March 2023

UNCTAD’s online courses equip participants to design and implement policies to bridge gender gaps in trade.

© UNCTAD Jane Phiri is a cross-border trader from Chipata, a city in Zambia near the border with Malawi.

Women drive trade in least developed countries (LDCs), with many running small businesses across borders. But they face security risks and significant constraints in accessing productive and financial resources.

To help more women in these countries benefit from trade, UNCTAD trains policymakers on how to design and implement policies that tackle gender inequalities. It also trains academicians and representatives of civil society and the private sector so they can better contribute to this cause.

The online courses equip them with the knowledge to analyse the two-way relationship between trade and gender, and to formulate gender-equitable policies.

“This training has reinforced my desire to support women’s leadership and participation,” said Namizata Binaté-Fofana, one of the 104 participants who took the latest online course on the links between trade and gender.

Ms. Binaté-Fofana, a specialist in women's empowerment and microfinance in rural areas, is a lecturer at Félix Houphouët Boigny University in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. She’s also a technical advisor for the country’s Ministry of Women, Family and Children.

The five-week course, which focused on LDCs, took place between October and December 2022. UNCTAD delivered it in collaboration with the secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework.

Trade and gender high on agenda

“The debate on trade and gender is high on the multilateral agenda and many countries are exploring ways to make their trade policy more beneficial to women,” said Simonetta Zarrilli, who leads UNCTAD's programme on trade, gender and development.

But not all stakeholders fully understand how trade policy can contribute to women’s economic empowerment or hamper it, and how gender inequality affects a country’s trade performance.

“Our online courses are meant to bridge these knowledge gaps to advance the cause of gender equality in trade across the world,” she said.

Stronger capacity to make a difference

Ms. Binaté-Fofana said the course enhanced her capacity to mainstream gender issues in trade policy and “strengthen the integration of gender issues in research on development policies in West Africa.” It also equipped her to better contribute to debates on trade and gender at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels.

She said her new knowledge would help her improve the lot of women traders in the context of the implementation of the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). 

She’s contributing to the deployment of the digital platform Africa Trade Barriers developed by UNCTAD and the African Union to help remove non-tariff barriers to trade in Africa. She’s also involved in negotiations on the AfCFTA’s Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade. 

Other participants also found the training useful. “The courses focused on an important but rather neglected issue in Africa: the economic empowerment of women and their contribution to the development process,” said Alexe Kitio, a legal officer at the Ministry of External Relations in Cameroon. 

Over 1,700 people trained

UNCTAD has trained over 1,700 policymakers and other stakeholders from 152 countries since 2015. 

Building on the success of previous editions of the course, in March 2023, UNCTAD will offer new training sessions focused on LDCs, in English and French. Also, a new course focused on women in e-commerce will take place in the second quarter of 2023.