Finland and ITC step it up on women’s economic empowerment

9 June 2016
ITC News
Finland announces €3.175m funding for ITC during International Forum on Women in Business – one-third earmarked for women-related projects.

(Helsinki) – Women’s economic empowerment took centre-stage in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, this week at the International Forum on Women in Business, where Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka announced that the government would allocate €3.175 million for the International Trade Centre (ITC) in 2016-17. Of this total, €1.2m will be earmarked for ITC’s Women and Trade Programme.

‘I know that women have a lot to offer in trade, but their potential needs to be fully unlocked. No society or company can be successful without fully utilizing their women,’ Toivakka said at the 8 June event. ‘ITC’s strong focus on small and medium-sized enterprises aligns with Finland’s development priorities and we look forward to strengthening this partnership,’ she said.

ITC Executive Director Arancha González praised Minister Toivakka and her country for being a global leader on women’s economic empowerment. Calling on other countries to follow Finland’s example, she said: ‘Not fully including women in the economy is the equivalent of flying a plane with one engine, or having only half a football team on the pitch. To achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable job creation, women need to be empowered economically.’

Close to 100 business leaders and senior government officials came together for the event to discuss issues related to the economic empowerment of women, including access to finance, public procurement and gender stereotypes. The forum also served as the Finnish launch of ITC’s SheTrades initiative, which aims to connect 1 million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020.

Tech power

Participants from a range of countries – including Burundi, Ethiopia, Finland, India, Norway, Turkey, and the United States – voiced their opinions on what is needed to make business and trade more inclusive. Nanjira Sambuli, Research Lead with iHub, one of Kenya’s leading innovation communities, pointed to technology as a game-changer for women, saying that ‘it [technology] has unlocked a new world of opportunities for women across the world’.

During the forum, multiple organizations also made commitments towards supporting the goal of the SheTrades initiative. Anna Lammila, Finland’s Ambassador at Large for Global Women Issues and Gender Equality, announced that in addition to its renewed financial commitment to ITC, Finland would also be translating the SheTrades call to action into Finnish and Swedish, and disseminate it across the Finnish business community.

Learn more about ITC’s Women and Trade Programme.