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PRESS RELEASE: International Women's Day, Trade and Gender Equality from Gender Blind to Gender Sensitive #BEBoldforChange

 

MARCH 8 2017 | Convent International Guest House |Nairobi

 

                          The International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated on March 8 with pomp and colour around the world withthis year’s themebeing #Beboldforchange.  AGTSD was not left behind and organised a symposium to discuss “Trade and Gender equality: From Gender blind to Gender Sensitive.” The event was marked with presentations and activities from key leaders on gender issues.

 

In her presentation titled, “Women and Trade development, Challenges and opportunities” Dr. Tabitha Kiriti-Nganga, Professor and WTO Chair, School of Economics, University of Nairobi, discussed the economy as a gendered structure, the challenges women face and opportunities that can be tapped by women either nationally or internationally. She reminded participants not to forget women who have made change in the country like Professor Wangari Maathai and others.  She went on to say that, “Gender doesn’t necessarily imply position of disadvantage for women but women are vulnerable and suffer biases that prevent their access to the same kind of economic, social and political opportunities as their male counterparts.” She reiterated that women face many challenges in the multiple roles they play as producers, workers, traders and home mangers. She mentioned that women are time constrained in reaching the markets to sell their goods because of other work at home. They also lack information and face gender based violence.  She mentioned that infrastructure is not gender sensitive and citing some major roads built where there are no toilets for women and, that means holding up to 7 hours before they reach their destinations.  She also mentioned where gender analysis and policies are not gender neutral giving an example of how supermarkets are killing Mama mbogas (Woman trader selling small wares and vegetables) since these supermarkets are opened 24 hours and hence they don’t get more customers to make a profit.  In her concluding remarks she mentioned that gender equity would foster economic development and poverty reduction and that strategies should be put in place to assess the costs of obligation that trade agreement impose on women in developing countries. She mentioned that international trading system should be guided by consideration of those public interest issues which are particularly relevant for women such as poverty eradication, fighting infectious disease and provisional of universal access to essential goods and services.

 

In her presentation, Trade and Gender, Challenges and opportunities in East Africa, Ms. Makena Mwiti, Technical Advisor, Gender from TradeMark East Africa stated that women don’t participate in trade as they should due to many challenges they face. They face specific challenges and barriers to trade for example lack knowledge when it comes to technical standards, sometimes procedures at the border are changed but they are not aware. Access to finance and ICT, sexual harassment at the border post are also some of the barriers women face.  Ms. Makena went onto say that 80% of informal cross-border are women and they re-invest 90% of increased income back to their family. She also mentioned that countries that focus on women entrepreneurship and women employment have increased their GDP. She mentioned that Trademark East Africa is supporting women groups and organisations at the border to access finance and access markets.

 

Mr Felix Okatch, a multilateral trade expert gave his presentation on how Governments cushion women traders, when internal and external shocks affect their businesses.  He mentioned the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is the key document in the development of women in business. He elaborated the meaning of Gender mainstreaming in the constitution. On funds provided by the Government such as Women fund, Youth fund Uwezo fund, Mr. Okatch said, “they are supportive to women businesses”. Mr. Okatch gave some of the services offered to women by the government such as export markets development, exporting skills, product development, trade information, insurance and trade Policy facilitation. On the issue of maternity leave women should be given 3 – 6 months and a unilateral one day in a month for mother’s day like what is happening in Zambia for physiological support to women.

 

The IWD event was attended by Government representatives from East African Community Affairs, The state department of Gender, Private Sector, Women at cross border post, Donors, Academia and Non-governmental Organisation.

 

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