Raising the Voice of Women Entrepreneurs in the Pacific Region

29 November 2010
ITC News

Building a network of Pacific women in business More than 50 Pacific business women from 14 Pacific nations and Timor Leste will gather in Port Vila, Vanuatu, later this month (15-17 March) to celebrate advances in women’s economic empowerment, ways of overcoming obstacles and finding practical solutions to enable women entrepreneurs to participate fully in the globalized economy.

The workshop will examine a range of constraints faced by women including dispute resolution mechanisms and gaining access to land or commercial rental space. Discussions will also focus on promoting women in the informal sector and defining the distinction between legitimate cultural gender differences in areas such as decision making, and true gender discrimination in the home, in business and in public forums.

Following International Women’s Day on 8 March 2010, the workshop is organised by the International Finance Corporate (IFC – a member of the World Bank Group), the International Trade Centre (ITC)and supported by the Australian overseas aid programme. The workshop is followed by a Vanuatu Women in Business event hosted by Westpac Pacific Banking.  The workshop brings together experts from regional and international organizations, including trade policy experts, gender specialists and business strategists, for discussion with Pacific Business women and government officials.

ITC Executive Director Patricia R. Francis commented: “Our consultations with regional institutions, community-based groups and governments in the Pacific region in recent years have convinced us that ITC has a clear role to play in the region in regard to private-sector development and trade support to regional institutions and national government bodies.”

Jodie McAlister Chief of Asia and the Pacific stated “In addition to business impediments a lack of networking and advocacy for gender issues in the trade policy arena is preventing a strong link between the private sector and governments in the Pacific.  This link is essential to ensure that future PACER plus negotiations are inclusive of women entrepreneurs in the Pacific and to ensure that gender is visibly integrated into the negotiation agenda and processes”.

The main themes of discussion during the meeting are: gender and culture; public and private sector dialogue; gender and regional trade arrangements; gender and the investment climate; and trade policy and business development.

One of the expected outcomes is the establishment of a regional network in which Pacific women in business can share best practice and mentor each other, and which can act as a forum for research and analysis on international and regional trade policies.

Participants will also develop ideas for establishing suitable architecture to ensure that the voice of Pacific women entrepreneurs is heard at the national and regional levels in regard to investment climate reform, trade negotiations and the decision-making process.

In parallel to the workshop, experts from ITC and other international agencies and five countries from the region

will also be participating in a second workshop in Port Vila on 16-18 March, focusing on implementation of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the mechanism for channelling assistance to the least developed countries (LDCs) for trade development activities.

This has been organized by the Government of Vanuatu, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United National Development Programme (UNDP).

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