ITC Executive Director opening remarks at the SheTrades Global 2019
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen – it is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to this year’s edition of ITC’s flagship event on women‘s economic empowerment – SheTrades Global 2019!
Let me start by thanking our co-hosts, the African Union Commission and the Government of Ethiopia. Together we can go very far.
Let me also recognize the First Lady of Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi for joining us today. We look forward to listening to you later this morning.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said: “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you, and then you win.”
It was 25 years ago at the Beijing Conference when the world stopped ignoring that women’s rights are human rights and that human rights are women’s rights. We have come a long way but the fight is not over.
The metrics used in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report vividly paints the picture for us. In one swift glance we see that gender equality is still a long way away. The data reveals that we are gaining ground on gender parity in educational attainment and health but that political empowerment and economic participation and opportunity are two key areas of power and influence where women have not caught up with men.
A child born today will most likely never see gender parity in his or her lifetime. After all, it will be another 136 years before sub-Saharan African would on average achieve gender parity. If we single out countries, we see even more clearly the challenge, where for example, at current pace in the United States it could be another 208 years and in Pakistan and Iran another 500 years before we see gender equality become a reality.
ITC has done its own research and found that although women are clearly present in trade, they are far less active then men in the more profitable side of trade – trading across borders; going global. The statistic which I find best encapsulates the underrepresentation of women in international trade is that only 1 of every 5 exporting companies is woman-owned – only 1 out of 5.
So indeed there is quite a bit of “unfinished business” for us to do together when we consider our ambition for She-Trades-Global.
At ITC, we are doing our bit.
Through the SheTrades Initiative, we are building women’s skills sets and helping them to add value to their products and services: this is the case for Victoria Garbrah’s natural beauty supplies company, Venet Naturals and Ruby Buah’s home décor business, Kua Lifetsyle – both based in Ghana.
It doesn’t stop there.
We are preparing women to meet and formalize deals with new investors and buyers: this is the case for Prisca Muyodi’s Early Childhood Education enterprise, Ecuador Limited and Yvonne Otieno’s fresh fruit business, Miyonga Fresh Greens – both operating out of Kenya.
We also create unique opportunities for networking, sharing of best practices and access to role models to push ourselves: this is the case for women-owned businesses like Mafi Mafi in Ethiopia, Eclectic Chique in Nigeria, Botlab Software in Kenya and Travium Honey Supplies in Zambia, just to name a few.
Over and above this, ITC is providing thought leadership on the global agenda on women’s economic empowerment. We are active advocates within the Group of 20 leading economies (G20)’s official engagement group on women in the economy, the Women 20 (W20). We chair the Global Board of the International Gender Champions network of world leaders, which spearheaded the historic Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment at the last Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. We also engage in strategic partnerships across the world. Just last July, we co-authored a publication on global economic governance entirely authored by women.
We also know that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential to change the trading landscape of Africa and boost intra-Africa trade by more than 50%. However, if policies are going to work, they need to work for everyone—and that includes women.
For this reason, the past two days, ITC, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa have worked with more than 40 women business associations representing one million African women entrepreneurs and producers to develop priorities to shape an AfCFTA that works for women. We will continue the discussion into next year by bringing together women and trade policymakers.
Yesterday, ITC also met with SheTrades partners – including from the private sector and the funders community – to craft a vision and a plan of action for scaling our collective action across the entire spectrum of trade - in agriculture, in manufacturing, in services and the digital economy - with unsung heroes of trade.
Today, we have more than 1,100 registered delegates from 95 countries. I am pleased to see a variety of committed stakeholders united around the goal of increasing women’s participation in trade and the economy.
We are here to propose innovative solutions, take stock of progress, share experiences and best practices, and accelerate the greater inclusion of women in trade.
Ladies and gentlemen, with a reminder of our unfinished business, I wish you all a great day of insightful and transformational exchanges in the hope that we leave here more inspired and better equipped to empower ourselves and the millions of women in our networks for a more inclusive and sustainable future.