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    Focus on Women Exporters


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2004

    Forum issue 4/2003 on Women in the Global Economy.

    The results of ITC's work with women in trade are challenging perceptions of the role of women exporters in economic and social development - and the need to support them.

    ITC's experience shows that women in international trade are often "social entrepreneurs", improving their lives and those of their families, employees and commu-nities. The potential exists for many more such cases, but women entrepreneurs are often isolated in marginal economic areas such as micro and informal businesses. Many do not have the same access as their male counterparts to trade support networks, which they need to expand their businesses. They may also need different kinds of support, for instance, more focused on services. Policy-makers and trade support institutions need to do more to evaluate and meet their specific needs, for example in export management skills, networking opportunities, technology use, business information and social support.

    A fresh look

    Unlike much of the research available on women in trade, the Forum special report on Women in the Global Economy has concrete examples of women exporters and offers recommendations, contacts and concepts that can be used in training courses, promotional events or national trade development programmes.

    Reaching out

    The report has attracted attention from quarters as diverse as Xinhua news agency, women ambassadors in Geneva, the UN's WomenWatch site, the UN's Special Adviser to Women, the World Bank's Development Gateway, the Centre de Recherche en Commerce et Développement (Centre for research in trade and development) of Benin, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) and a number of universities.

    Gender and Trade: Opportunities and Challenges, a new publication of the UN's Inter-agency Task Force on Gender and Trade, draws strongly from the Forum report's conclusions in its chapter on "Gender-specific capacity building for trade and enterprise development: Experiences in the UN system".

    Moving ahead

    A variety of ITC efforts, big and small, to support women in trade coexist, as "mainstreaming" picks up steam and we at ITC begin to understand how we can address women exporters' needs:

    • For the first time, ITC's annual Executive Forum on National Export Strategies will dedicate a session to women exporters' needs. The debate will be based on country experiences in supporting women's involvement in international trade.
    • In Cameroon, ITC is nearing the conclusion of its pilot project on helping women entrepreneurs tap into business opportunities using information and communications technology (ICT). At its last workshop, over 80 women entrepreneurs and associations were trained on how ICTs could help them to be more competitive in handicrafts, textiles and clothing, agro-business and services. Participants said they benefited from training, awareness-building and especially national and regional networking opportunities. They formally asked the government to organize similar events elsewhere in Cameroon and requested that ITC expand the project in western Africa.
    • In services exporting, women's associations are now systematically invited to ITC's seminars, a step has has substantially improved the ratio of women at those export training seminars.
    • ITC and the Trade Facilitation Office Canada will help women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa as part of their joint Programme for Building African Capacity for Trade. They will develop national skills in export management training for women exporters and provide networking support to integrate women's associations into "formal" trade support networks operating nationally, regionally and internationally in order to tap into business information and contacts.
    • ITC's Trade Maps and Product Maps have been offered free, for one year, to members of the Organization of Women in International Trade. ITC's market analysis team now know where OWIT chapters exist worldwide, and regularly arrange hands-on training sessions when they are travelling in the country.
    • Forum online is opening a special section dedicated to the issue of women exporters. And within ITC, we've developed a communications package containing presentations, articles and model letters for use among staff.


    High-level Interactive Round Table on Trade and Gender - 15 June.

    ITC's Executive Director, a panellist for this session in São Paolo, will advocate for trade policy-makers to take into account the needs of women exporters during this debate on policy issues surrounding gender and trade.

    For more information about ITC's activities for women in trade, see issue 4/2003 of Forum, Women in the Global Economy.