Why gender mainstreaming is more crucial than ever

10 March 2022

Including a gender lens in national policies can empower women to participate in trade and structural transformation on an equal footing with men.


The “Les 8 du mois until we’re there” initiative highlights UNCTAD’s commitment to promoting more gender-sensitive trade and economic policies.

Structural transformation is key to sustainable development and such transformation requires mainstreaming gender into national policies.

That was the main message from an expert panel discussion that coincided with International Women’s Day on 8 March.

“The 8th of March is an important reminder of the unfinished business towards gender equality,” said UNCTAD deputy chief Isabelle Durant in her keynote address.

“In no country in the world is gender equality a reality today,” Ms. Durant added.

“There is still much progress to be made to create a world in which men and women share the same rights, have the same opportunities, and enjoy the same freedoms.”

Structural injustices exploiting women and girls

Throughout history and across countries, women have done the lion’s share of unpaid care work but often without much social protection.

The disproportionate burden of care work is a critical structural barrier to women’s participation in the labour market and their economic empowerment.

Oxfam estimates the economic value of unpaid care work at around $11 trillion per year.

To put it into perspective, that’s three times more than the global tech industry and about 10% of global GDP.

Mainstreaming gender in structural transformation policies

Gender mainstreaming in national policies remains a challenge in the developing world, said Richard Kozul-Wright, who leads UNCTAD’s division on globalization and development strategies.

Moderating the discussion, Mr. Kozul-Wright noted that “the structure of their economies still [being] heavily rural, extensively informal adds to the gender challenges that they [many developing countries] continue to struggle with.”

To address this gap, UNCTAD has launched a report, “Mainstreaming Gender in National Policies” featuring case studies of Ethiopia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The report examines policies necessary to advance gender equality in the context of wider development challenges.

It shares successful experiences and a framework for analysis, with a view to assist capacity-building in developing nations.

The study was prepared – under the supervision of UNCTAD – by Elissa Braunstein, professor and chair of the economics department at Colorado State University and Diksha Arora, a post-doctoral researcher from the same university.

Blueprint for gender-responsive policymaking

The report provides a blueprint for mainstreaming gender into national policies.

Firstly, it suggests incorporating a gender lens into the social inclusion and development impact of industrial and trade policies.

Secondly, it proposes refocusing policies to target broad-based structural transformation.

“Industrial and trade policies must target not just productivity growth within lead sectors,” said Ms. Braunstein, the lead author of the report.

“To deliver development, they [policies] must bring about higher productivity employment generation for both women and men.”

Thirdly, it calls for the countering of traditional gender norms and stereotypes, which prevent women from equally benefiting from trade and structural transformation, especially given the increasing pace of technology advancement and automation in industry.

The report also urges the inclusion of social infrastructure and investments in the care economy as part of industrial policymaking.

“Gender budgeting can be a promising innovation in the post-COVID-19 fiscal strategies,” said panelist Lekha Chakraborty, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy of India.

“But there needs to be transparency and accountability,” Ms. Chakraborty added.

The panel also featured Mariama Williams, director of the Institute of Law and Economics in Jamaica.

“Les 8 du mois” initiative

The discussion was part of UNCTAD’s initiative called “Les 8 du mois until we’re there” (les 8 du mois is French for "the 8th of every month").

Launched in 2021, the initiative raises awareness on barriers to gender equality and how to overcome them to create economies and societies that offer women and men more equal chances.