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Encouraging more women to take part in regional trade

Mandakini Kaul's picture

Across South Asia, women represent a hugely underutilized source of growth. In fact, the South Asia region has some of the world’s lowest rates of female labor force participation - only 36%. Even where women work, they are mostly confined to less-remunerative low-skill jobs, and remain excluded from most trading activity. To make it easier for more women to work in all fields of endeavor, World Bank projects in the region have begun to look at development projects through a more gender-focused perspective.
 
One such area is regional trade and connectivity. After a long hiatus, the political momentum for cooperation within the eastern region is growing, especially in the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal (BBIN) corridor.  The Indian government’s Act East Policy, combined with the new Motor Vehicles Act that allows vehicles to cross the BBIN border with ease, represent a unique opportunity to reimagine inclusive growth by enabling more of the region’s women to benefit from this corridor.
 


Accordingly, the South Asia Regional Trade Facilitation Program (SARTFP), an Australian government-funded program being implemented by the World Bank, seeks to improve the conditions for women to trade between these nations and to create more remunerative livelihoods.

The trade facilitation program has begun to take stock of the situation. At a workshop in New Delhi in April 2017, for instance, women traders from the region spoke about the practical issues that hinder them from participating in cross-border trade. Ms Jesmina Zeliang from Nagaland spoke of the check points and security personnel that often hassle women traders. Ms Dolly Khongla of Meghalaya described the need to deal with male counterparts at each step of the trading process. Women also cited the lack of proper infrastructure at the border posts - such as the absence of women’s washrooms and spaces to tend to accompanying infants. This, coupled with safety and security concerns, created an environment that was not conducive to women’s participation in trade, they said.

The program is now using ‘game changing’ analytical work to bring new insights into the issues that hamper women from participating in regional trade. Not surprisingly, the first area the program seeks to address is transportation. For this, the program is looking at road, rail and inland water transport from a gender perspective. A study, due to be completed in 2018, is mining spatial data to not only identify the safety risks faced by women, but also by children, senior citizens, and people with disability, with a view to increasing their use of inland water transport. These inputs will feed into the design and implementation of the large investments that are being planned to improve passenger services and vehicle accessibility across the Brahmaputra river.

The second area is trade.  Various government programs from tourism to livelihood development are being encouraged to adopt a gender-inclusive approach. The program is also financing economic research to identify trade corridors and specific value chains to make them friendlier for the participation of women-traders and micro / small entrepreneurs.  With this in mind, discourse and discussion between government decision-makers and the private sector are being supported.

Lessons and findings from these activities will be widely disseminated among the key stakeholders to inform and influence current and future international trade initiatives.

Comments

Submitted by Mahina Arefin on

Dear Mandakini Kaul ,

a) It was nice to see this article in blog which is bit different than usual article which World Bank discusses.

b) It is different in the sense that it is discussing about Women for a particular area in a particular field .

c) It is easy to talk of the phenomenon that "Women" participation is low and than it is easier to count the reason behind such low participation and it becomes even most easy to allocate funds and launch program and project from left and right which is not the need of the hour. .

d) The need of the hour is to systematically expand the ground for the "Women" mainly poor and extreme poor .

e)Delay and/or failure implementing NJCS for World Bank supported project NJLIP shows the way very clearly of systematic expansion which will curb the i) Poverty ii) Siphon and Corruption iii) Gender inequality d) Malnutrition etc .

f) In NJLIP "Elite capture" mainly by men gave birth to "Siphon and corruption" which gave further birth to "Poverty" which is about to give birth to "Terrorism and conflicts ".

g) NJCS is supposed to be owned and run by 95% Women but realities are totally different on ground .

h) I have a full proved guaranteed plan to make NJCS a great success and reality by introducing "Sustainable Income generating activities " but World Bank staff of Bangladesh shadow it by indulging in "Elite Capture" .

i) NJCS has all capability to co operate at national ,regional,continental and international level to achieve SDG8 that too only by Women .

j) Now the question : " Is World Bank and its staff are serious and honest enough to work for this noble cause without 'Elite Capture" ?

Further comment and/or suggestions are most welcome .

Regards
Mahina Arefin

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