ITC Executive Director opening remarks at the SheTrades Global 2018
Liverpool, United Kingdom
26 June 2018
Good morning excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen.
Welcome to SheTrades Global!
Let me start by thanking our co-hosts, the 2018 International Business Festival and the government of the United Kingdom, for their support in bringing this event to life.
I am thrilled that you have joined us in Liverpool—a city whose fame is well earned.
Liverpool gave the world the Beatles. It was one of the first cities to open a public library. The first city to support a passenger railway. Its roots as a trading city go back to the 1600’s when commodities such as cloth, coal, salt were exchanged for sugar and tobacco.
Liverpool also has a longstanding tradition of promoting gender equality and is home to boundary-pushers such as Eleanor Rathbone and Kate Sheppard, prominent suffragists and women’s rights advocates.
It is this rich history of trade and culture of creativity, and innovation that drew us here to Liverpool.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am proud to say that with us here today, we have delegates from all over the world. From Afghanistan to Egypt. From India to Indonesia. From Kenya to Zambia. From Peru to Papua New Guinea. From Jamaica to Uzbekistan. From Argentina to Ukraine.
By now, we are familiar with the many varied, interconnected challenges that women face to participate in trade. Nevertheless, it is through forums such as these that we have the chance to spark collaboration and lasting change.
By working together, we can reduce the estimated 217 years it will take to achieve gender parity. We can ensure that the 90% of countries maintaining one or more laws discriminating against women in the economy see reform. We can promote women’s participation in public procurement, and we can create a more equitable representation of women exporters.
If we manage to do this, we can unlock the full potential of women’s economic participation and add up to $28 trillion USD to the world’s GDP by 2025.
Gender equality has been on the development agenda for nearly two decades, and we are starting to see results.
At the most recent WTO ministerial conference in December 2017, over 120 countries came together in support of the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment—the first of its kind. They have committed to sharing information and best practices to promote women’s participation in trade as a driver for inclusive and sustainable development.
ITC has also been doing its part. In 2015, we launched the SheTrades Initiative with a goal of connecting 1 million women to international markets by 2020. Our vision is to create an enabling ecosystem for greater integration of women in global trade and investment.
Our partners have been crucial in increasing the reach, quality, scale, and sustainability of the SheTrades Initiative. Through commitments with them, by the end of 2017 we had already secured 1 million. This is why we have decide to raise the level of our ambition to 3 million by the end of 2021!
In less than two years, with Barclays Bank over $4million USD worth of loans have been extended to SheTrades entrepreneurs. We have worked with eBay to get women online through the eBay market place. We have successfully generated $90 million in export value opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
SheTrades has expanded its footprint in Africa, Asia, MENA, Latin America and Caribbean and the Pacific – with chapters in 18 countries by the end of this year.
With Nigeria Export Promotion Council, we have delivered workshops in every state of Nigeria ensuring that both urban and rural women understand the opportunities to participate in trade.
With our partner Dubai Exports, we have set up a SheTrades Hub in Dubai, to foster inclusive trade in the Middle East and North Africa.
But most importantly, SheTrades is about our incredibly inspiring women entrepreneurs.
Women like Nelly Puertas from Perú, who owns a sustainable clothing company that uses alpaca and quinoa fibbers, along with natural blends, to make ladies jackets, coats, sweaters, and accessories. With support from SheTrades, she has expanded her reach, created a unique, environmentally-friendly brand, and employs women in underserved local communities and people with disabilities.
Women like Preeti Bedi from India, who produces chemical-free skincare and wellness products including herbal teas and oils. Through SheTrades, she brings therapeutic solutions to people in various geographies, according to their lifestyle needs, and ensures zero waste production.
Women like Irene Nalwoga who took a risk and left her bank job to start a tour company. With support from SheTrades, she has revolutionized the tourism industry in Uganda by catering to solo women travellers with hiking and wildlife safaris. She employs 90% women in all her lodges in Uganda and has even been presented an award for “Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government” in the tourism sector.
It is also about Chiedza, founder of an Afro-Urban fashion line, who through SheTrades, has expanded her footprint in the US market and for the first time entered European markets from her factory in Ghana. She has successfully grown her company to mass production and works with 99% local women artisan suppliers. She has dressed celebrities for movie premieres including Black Panther. Today, she even introduces us to her networks, financial institutions, and local support organizations to help us better support more women. Perhaps it is confirmation we are on the right track when a beneficiary becomes a partner.
The stories I have shared with you are just a fraction of the women we support and will continue to support through SheTrades.
I call on you all—women entrepreneurs, governments, private sector companies, trade and investment institutions, researchers, and other civil society groups—to allow trade to be a uniting force. Demonstrate that when SheTrades, it is the entire country that benefits. Seize the opportunity here this week to forge lasting relationships and expand opportunities for women entrepreneurs through trade.
I encourage you all to keep this in mind over the next three days as we hear from our panel of “Unicorn” women entrepreneurs, not one but TWO first ladies, industry partners on the future of trade, and from enablers that make trade happen. Profit from our Industry Insights sessions, where industry partners will share trends, regulations, policies, and practices in IT& BPO, textiles & apparel, and tourism. Stop by the SheTrades Village to attend sessions hosted by partners throughout the event as well. On Thursday afternoon, we will wrap up with the SheTrades Investment Challenge where finalists will have the chance to pitch their businesses for investment—live and in person!
I look forward to this exciting line up of events and to meeting you all! Thank you for being with us on this exciting journey.