ECA Press Release 191/2012
Addis Ababa, 8 November 2012 (ECA) – A continental conference on Mainstreaming Gender into Trade Policy will be held in Accra Ghana from 12-14 November 2012 to focus on how to increase women's voice in trade policy and negotiations. The conference aims to assist trade policy makers, including Regional Economic Communities (RECs), to better reflect women’s contributions and needs in future trade policy formulation and practices, according to a statement from the Africa Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
“Women stand at the crossroads between production and reproduction, between economic activity and the care of human beings, and therefore between economic growth and human development.” explains Alan Kyerematen, Coordinator, ATPC in an exchange with the Information and Communication Service (ICS) of ECA ahead of the conference.
Yet, even as women make up the most of the informal sector of the economy, policies neglect the role of women traders. If harnessed, they have the potential to contribute to turning around Africa’s poor trade performance according to Kyerematen.
“We are arguing that gender responsive trade policies can place countries in a better position to exploit the opportunities for men and women within the international trading system," he said, adding that the shift would bring about benefits by unlocking the potential, particularly for women, who are both producers and cross- border traders in Africa.
The push for increasing women’s voices in trade policy discussions and negotiations has arisen in light of growing concerns about the impact of trade liberalization in Africa. According to Kyerematen, the lack of regulations or policies that characterize liberalization is not resulting in benefits for traders while the projected gains of a liberalized trade regime, expose the women to an even greater terrain for losses.
“Trade liberalization has led to rising trends in the subcontracting of women, a decrease in the prices of agricultural products produced by women, and above all a ‘masculinization’ of typically female employment opportunities,” he said, noting that female-dominated industries in garment making and footwear are the first to be downsized in trade liberalization tariff reduction impacts.
“As trade formalizes in Africa through the range of regional economic integration strategies, we need to focus on their potential to scale up from informal activities, so that they also become legitimate partners,” he said.
“We see this Conference as a critical point in our ongoing work in this area, says the former Minister of Trade for Ghana, “The voices of women in trade need to be better heard around the negotiating tables preparing trade policy responses.”
In the long-run, points out Kyerematen, countries stand to be more successful if they ensure coherence between trade policy and the empowerment of African women as part of their national development policies.
This continental conference will also promote the establishment of women’s programmes that enhance economic literacy and entrepreneurial skills in order to increase their understanding and critical thinking about business, trade and economic policies.
The Conference is organized by African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) in collaboration with the ECA's Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division (RITD), the African Centre for Gender and Social Development (ACGSD). Women traders and businesswomen, academic and civil society advocates and networks involved in gender and trade issues in Africa, trade and gender policymakers are expected to participate. Established by the ECA, the Africa Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) works on strengthening the human and institutional capacities of African Governments to formulate and implement sound trade policies and participate more effectively in trade negotiations at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels
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