Empowering Women, Powering Trade: ITC and WTO celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day

19 July 2011
ITC News


On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in March 2011, ITC celebrated the successes women have made in trade. At an event co-hosted by the World Trade Organization (WTO), ITC recognized the vital contribution women make to export, such as the gains made in the coffee sector.

Opening the event, WTO Director General Mr. Pascal Lamy remarked on the progress women have made over the past 100 years and the inequalities that still persist, noting that ‘women have achieved levels of excellence that have, indeed, made our world a better place. But these advances cannot hide the fact that in many parts of the world women remain economically and socially disadvantaged.’

Ms. Sandrine Salerno, Mayor of Geneva, addressed the 100-plus participants on the topic of equality for women in government. Mr. Jean-Marie Paugam, Deputy Executive Director of ITC, focused on ITC’s Women and Trade programme, which empowers women entrepreneurs and improves their representation across value chains. Mr. Paugam stressed that ITC considers gender as a powerful entry point for leveraging poverty alleviation through trade and contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development goals. One such example is ITC’s partnership with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) to identify and eliminate barriers to women’s success in the coffee sector.

Ms. Phyllis Johnson, representing IWCA, also spoke about the opportunities for women in coffee trade. In the African coffee industry, women do 70% of the field work and harvesting, but are only engaged in 10% of the in-country and international trade of the product. As there are approximately 25 million farmers and coffee workers in over 50 countries involved in producing coffee, ITC recognizes the opportunity to work with the coffee sector in terms of the high potential for export and the human development impact, particularly for women.

Speaking from International Women’s Day events at the UN in New York, ITC Executive Director Patricia Francis – commented on the importance of partnerships in achieving economic empowerment for women. She highlighted ITC’s Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors, which brings together corporate, government and institutional leaders committed to increasing women’s share of procurement.

In emphasizing the importance of the links between developed and developing countries, Ms Francis said, ‘There is great potential for consumers in developed country markets to ensure benefits flow to women, their families and communities in developing countries.’ ITC is supporting such efforts by linking African women working in the coffee industry to new buyers and markets, working with governments and trade institutions to address persistent gender-based barriers to export success and through supporting initiatives such as the Cup of Excellence Awards.

Ms. Francis continued, ‘ITC is committed to bringing together the right public and private sector partners to assist women in achieving their potential as entrepreneurs for the benefit of themselves, their families and their communities.’

UN Women Launched 

The newest United Nations body, UN Women, was officially launched in by UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon in February 2011. The organization is dedicated to supporting individual countries in moving towards gender equality in economics and politics, and ending violence against women. By establishing international standards for progress, UN Women will assist in creating new opportunities for women and girls within the UN programmes for peace and development. The former Chilean president and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, spoke at the event, drawing a connection between women’s empowerment and national growth in areas such as food security.

For more information visit www.unwomen.org.