Unlocking international markets for Central Asian women

27 January 2023
ITC News

From laws and regulations to engaging with customs brokers, ITC’s latest workshops showed women how to expand their businesses across borders

Many women-led businesses in Central Asia are looking to expand their businesses and to reach new international markets. And a recent survey conducted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) showed a strong demand for gender-focused training in cross-border trade.

To respond to that need, ITC ran workshops across 15 cities and remote areas in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and  Uzbekistan.

“One major challenge to cross-border trade is a lack of access to information about export regulations and standards”, says Alina Fetisova, Trade Facilitation Programme Officer at ITC.

“Women often do not have access to information on international and regional trade and, thus, lack relevant knowledge and skills,” she said. The recent survey conducted by ITC showed that only 35% of women entrepreneurs in Central Asia received training on cross-border trade, which makes the trainings that we are offering very relevant.”

To make it easier to attend the three-day trainings in November and December 2022, all the sessions were held in family-friendly environments, so women could participate with their children.

A total of 350 representatives of women business and customs broker associations attended.

Indeed, Gaziza Viktorova, a young Kazakh entrepreneur in the beauty industry, added, We are planning to expand our activity abroad but my knowledge in the field of foreign economic activity is probably 10% of what is needed”.

These trainings allowed women entrepreneurs to learn more about customs legislation and international regulatory frameworks, specifics of negotiations with customs brokers, as well as rules, rights and obligations while crossing the border.

Kholbibi Eshonboboyeva, a young start-up owner from Dushanbe said: I am more confident in my own abilities to trade internationally. I learned relevant rules and regulations, know my rights and how to act in certain situations at the border. Practical advice I received at the training was especially useful".

Trainings have also revealed other challenges women face in trade, such as gender bias and discrimination that can limit their access to resources.

Gender inequality and gender disempowerment is very acute,” said one participant, highlighting a stereotyped attitude that impact women’s ability to trade.

After trainings, women shared very positive feedback and requested more trainings of such content.

I suggest reaching as many women entrepreneurs in remote regions and towns of Kazakhstan as possible because they do not have all necessary information, especially on newly adopted laws and changes in customs regulations,” said Karlygash Alikhanovna, an entrepreneur from Kazakhstan.

About the project

Ready4Trade Central Asia is a four-year EU-funded project implemented by the International Trade Centre in close collaboration with national partners, designed to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the countries of the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.

More information: https://www.intracen.org/Ready4Trade