Global Resources

Mainstreaming Gender into Trade and Development Strategies in Africa

Publication Date: Jan 2008
Trade liberalisation - the lowering of restrictions on goods for import and export - is increasingly being taken up across the world because of its association with high economic growth. With a specific focus on Africa, this paper notes that, within the context of trade liberalisation, women can be both winners and losers. They may benefit - for example through greater access to paid employment opportunities in manufacturing of garments and other goods. Yet they are not able to seize the opportunities provided by trade expansion to the same degree as men. For example, women farmers are often constrained from entering export-oriented markets such as cotton or sugar production due to a variety of factors, including caring responsibilities which limit the time they can devote to paid work and make it difficult for them to travel far from home, low levels of education, and lack of access to credit or land. In manufacturing, women often receive lower wages than men because of assumptions that they are not the main breadwinners, and may work in poor conditions. The paper notes that, in order to achieve high growth with gender equality, certain elements need to be in place:

? Women's voices must inform the formulation and implementation of trade policies. Civil society groups such as women's organisations and informal groups of women workers can facilitate these processes.
? Women entrepreneurs need greater access to information about export markets and training on how to manage and market services.
? Microfinance can be an effective strategy for empowering women if it is complemented by additional strategies such as business training and basic literacy
? Strong political will and support from national governments and the international community is needed for gender mainstreaming in trade-related policy.
? This support should be backed by budgetary resource allocation.