Originally published as an expert opinion in the WTO Report in 2022.
Inclusive programming has been central to the EIF’s Aid for Trade interventions in least developed countries (LDCs). This emerged from a recognition that the gains from trade are amplified when they generate opportunities for women and youth and enable micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to integrate into global trade.
The EIF Empower Women, Power Trade (EWPT) initiative, launched in 2019, demonstrates our commitment towards women’s economic empowerment through a set of defined outcomes on policy and productive capacity. A foundation of the EWPT initiative is to build the evidence-base to support gender-sensitive policies.
The OECD–WTO monitoring and evaluation (M&E) exercise has noted that mainstreaming gender into national strategies is a continuous process. This reflects our ongoing work which has been to partner with governments in LDCs to formulate and implement gender-sensitive trade policies and regulations, as well as to improve the collection of gender-disaggregated trade data.
The best policies are evidence-based, but they can be challenging to formulate in contexts where data do not exist. Since 2019, gender analysis was integrated in the EIF’s flagship analytical work, its Diagnostic Trade Integrated Studies, providing the basis for gender-disaggregated trade data to inform policy formulation processes in the countries themselves.
Building evidence does not only happen through research and analysis; it also comes from sharing experiences. For example, EIF support has been directed to sectors in which women are predominantly engaged, so female-owned businesses can expand and access new regional and global markets. Responses to the M&E exercise indicate a wide recognition that these efforts result in strengthening women’s economic and financial independence.
These data are useful when LDC governments need to formulate trade-related policies and regulatory frameworks. But as highlighted in the exercise, this is a continuous process.
E-commerce has emerged as a particularly critical area for deepening the inclusiveness of trade and has continued to thrive especially over the past two years due to COVID-19. The digital transformation has the potential to have an equally transformative effect on women entrepreneurs. Evidence already points to impressive gains made by women and youth on the e-commerce front these past few years. The EIF and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific training to Southeast Asian women entrepreneurs in e-commerce is one such example. Policymakers therefore need to pay attention to these results, but researchers and development partners also have a role to play in sharing their evidence and learning.
This M&E exercise spearheaded by the WTO and the OECD is a prime example of the creation of this evidence to help drive Aid for Trade policies but also informs least developed and developed countries on what has worked, and what has not, in other countries and contexts.
Going forward, continuing to build evidence to mainstream gender in trade policy and regulatory frameworks should remain an area of essential focus for all. On our end, the EIF will continue sharing results and lessons, ensure the collection of gender-disaggregated data serves as a basis for learning, and strengthen the partnerships that ensure trade works for women.