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Gender and Trade

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Gender inequality and discrimination can affect many areas of life, from a women’s access to basic health services to her prospects for education and future earnings. Accordingly, in order to overcome these disparities, development practitioners have begun to collect gender-disaggregated data and address gender elements in the design and implementation of aid programs. By “gender-informing” projects, development institutions, such as the World Bank, can better overcome discrimination, avoid aggravating existing inequalities, and enhance human capital for the future.

Indeed, adopting a gender-informed perspective can improve the effectiveness of many initiatives—not least of all those aimed at promoting trade. Unveiled this summer, the World Bank’s new trade strategy, Leveraging Trade for Development and Inclusive Growth, focuses on enhancing trade competitiveness and encouraging greater diversification in the sector (among other goals). Crucial to achieving these aims—as argued by the authors of the most recent Economic Premise—is to analyze the gender components of value chains, sectors, and labor markets in an effort to design and implement the most gender-informed initiatives.

As highlighted in “Gender-Informing Aid for Trade: Entry Points and Initial Lessons Learned from the World Bank,” Elisa Gamberoni and Jose Guilherme Reis show that “gender-informing” projects in the trade sector can have remarkable effects. The authors argue, “Including women in trade-related interventions implies that a larger set of the population will have opportunities to upgrade their skills, and a larger fraction of producers will have the necessary tools to exploit the available opportunities offered by the greater access to markets that follows from greater openness to trade.”

To be sure, studies from around the world illustrate the importance of taking gender into account in trade-related projects. For example, by conducting a competitiveness analysis in Mali’s agricultural sector, researchers were able to better understand competitiveness bottlenecks and study gender differences in onion and mango value chains. From female farmers in Africa, to garment workers in East Asia, Gamberoni and Reis argue, “Considering the role of women when designing Aid for Trade interventions can help better identify the constraints faced by exporters, thereby increasing the overall effect of the intervention and ensuring that female producers benefit from any additional income.”

Going forward, it is clear that incorporating gender into Aid for Trade programs can have high payoffs in the long run. To this end, the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network is developing a series of guidance notes to help integrate gender dimensions into the development, implementation, and evaluation of trade activities. By approaching development from such a gender-informed perspective, we can more fully ensure that our growth strategies are inclusive as they are sustainable.