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Women in the World of International Trade

Updated: Jun 9

Women celebrating International Women’s Day by getting together and finding solutions to enter the trade sector, seamlessly!

The Director General (DG) of World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, believes international trade is important for women’s economic empowerment but the numerous obstacles they face, leaves women marginalised in the trading sector.

The DG believes that the reason less women are entrepreneurs and participate in international trade is mainly down to one barrier: social norms. Society is under the impression that women are neither knowledgeable nor skilled enough to participate in such a male-dominate sector. As a consequence of these gender misconceptions, there are structural inequalities between sexes. In reality, women struggle more than men to register their business or even access finances. More broadly, another example explored by the DG is that even though women own or lead one-third of global companies, “with women entrepreneurs mostly owing and leading micro enterprises”, this is still not comparable to the number of men-owned businesses.

The DG is passionate that women can overcome these disparities between genders by “creating and making available [...] women-led trade enterprises” particularly in areas which require the use of digital applications and trade finances. As a result, the “Women-led MSMEs, Trade and Climate Change – Adapting and Investing for the Future” workshop took place. The purpose of this event was to address the importance of inclusivity in WTO in three areas: (i) discussions, (ii) rulemaking, and (iii) underlining the link between sustainability and inclusivity.

The first part of the session, with examples of women-led MSMEs on a global level, particularly focused on Indigenous people. A number of people were present for this event, including Simon Manley, who is the Co-Chair of the WTO Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender in the United Kingdom. In the second panel, various women owning small businesses were brought together to speak on the challenges they face, specifically “when trying to integrate environmental and social considerations into their business activities”. The women also brought suggestions as to how these challenges could be overcome. One of the speakers was Rupa Ganguli, the Founder and CEO of Inclusive Trade Ltd. Ms Ganguli spoke on the difficulties small businesses have when wanting to demonstrate their positive environmental impacts. She came up with a solution to this, Verify for Impact tool.

For more information, visit this page from the WTO.

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