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What’s challenging women as they seek to trade and compete in the global economy

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
The World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice is front and center in supporting our corporate Gender Strategy for 2016 to 2023. The strategy defines the level and type of support that the Bank Group is committed to provide to its client countries and firms to achieve greater gender equality.
 
Woman with water container at well. Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Dominic Sansoni / World Bank
Through rigorous, gender-sensitive analytics, gender-informed policy reforms, and gender-targeted interventions, we are working to improve the business environment for women; expand trade and market opportunities for women; strengthen the productivity and competitiveness of female workers and women-led businesses; and enhance women’s economic voice and agency. According to analysis being conducted as part of our work, the following are some of the most pressing constraints facing women in the trade and competitiveness space: The Bank Group’s response to these challenges—from a trade and competitiveness focus—comes in an array of gender-sensitive products and interventions, including gender-informed policy advice; signature analytics intended to identify constraints and opportunities for women and generate data; gender-sensitive trade facilitation projects to help remove procedural obstacles faced by women traders and improve connectivity; and gender-sensitive sector and value chain mapping aimed at identifying obstacles to women’s engagement in higher value-added segments of the value chain, and connecting them to larger distributors and buyers including through trade platforms, e-commerce and contractual arrangements. 
 
Over the past four years, 69 percent of the Bank's lending operations and an average of 25 percent of all our advisory services—provided through the World Bank and International Finance Corporation—have been gender-related. And we are deeply committed to improving these metrics over the next few years.    
 
As we end a week of discussions at the World Trade Organization’s Sixth Global Review of Aid for Trade, we are also thinking about ways that Aid-for-Trade can support gender equality in trade and competitiveness.
 
Aid for Trade is critical to promote economic empowerment of women through trade. Examples of interventions focusing on specific challenges facing female traders and entrepreneurs do currently exist. But, going forward, a more systematic approach is required which allows for proper accounting of Aid-for-Trade resources allocated to gender-sensitive interventions. This should be paired with a methodological shift, in which gender is no longer seen as a box to tick but rather as a key Aid-for-Trade priority to which specific resources are ear-marked, and around which targeted interventions are designed.         

With targeted strategies and focused interventions, including resources directed toward gender-informed and -specific development initiatives, the international community can ensure that women are not left behind in our efforts to bring developing countries into the global trade system and ensure the benefits of trade reach all citizens.


  1. Data from an internal T&C Gender Portfolio Review, conducted in 2016.