Women in Central Asia credit ITC training with boost in business

26 October 2023
ITC News

With limited cross-border trade know-how, women entrepreneurs in Central Asia have witnessed a transformation through ITC's gender-focused approach to trade facilitation. Today, 87% of women reported increased activity and better business practices after receiving training.

Women traders in Central Asia frequently face barriers to entering international markets, because they don’t know how to navigate cross-border procedures. 

An extensive survey of 1,500 women by the International Trade Centre (ITC), conducted as part of the EU-funded Ready4Trade Central Asia project, revealed that only 35% had received trade-related training. Over half didn’t feel their voice included in the public-private dialogue on trade facilitation procedures and struggled with trade information access. 

To address this knowledge gap, Ready4Trade Central Asia conducted a series of workshops for  350 women from five Central Asian countries, preparing them to more actively engage in cross-border trade. ITC built a strong alliance with Women Business and Customs Broker to develop and deliver the trainings to make sure they reflect real-world challenges. The partnership also makes the workshops more sustainable. A year later, 87% of the participants reported enhanced business activities and trade practices. 

As we mark this achievement, we take a moment to reflect, celebrating the journey and exploring the key elements that made this initiative impactful.

Going the extra mile to address the needs of women traders and mothers 

Women traders were so eager to participate in the trainings that they went beyond their traditional family roles and traveled to the training with their kids and grandkids. Recognizing these challenges, ITC ensured that workshops accommodated families and provided space for cultivating trade facilitation, self-confidence and negotiation skills.  

They were trained on crucial topics such as: 

  • cross border trade requirements 

  • conflict management 

  • women's rights at the border 

All of them are essential for complex cross-border scenarios. 

‘We can be not only good mothers but also good business leaders!’ said Balzhan Asylbaeva, who participated in the workshop in Kazakhstan.   

Impact and key benefits

Some 80% of training participants reported enhanced business activity and improved trading practices one year after the training. 

Nearly 100% of participants indicated that understanding their rights and obligations has empowered them to advocate for their interests and engage in trade-related organizations and committees. 

‘I am fabrics supplier, I have increased my income and reduced work-related challenges,’ says Mardona Zafarovna, director of ООО Fashion Style Mardona. 

‘I've been working in a bakery shop for 18 years. I have been producing natural pastille for the last three to four years. Now I feel more confident about selling it to other regions,’ said Sokeyeva Cholpon, a workshop participant from Kyrgyzstan. 

‘I learnt how to deal with difficult situations at the border and will be more comfortable to confront them next time’ - said Assel Nurkanova, a workshop participant from Kazakhstan.  

Through Gender-Responsive Trade Facilitation, we're not just streamlining processes; we're championing a brighter, barrier-free future for women in trade.  

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.