Table of Contents

  • In 1996, Commonwealth Ministers Responsible for Women's Affairs mandated the Commonwealth Secretariat to develop the concept of the Gender Management System (GMS), a comprehensive network of structures, mechanisms and processes for bringing a gender perspective to bear in the mainstream of all government policies, programmes and projects. The success of the GMS depends upon a broad-based partnership in society in which government consults and acts co-operatively with the other key stakeholders, who include civil society and the private sector. The establishment and strengthening of gender management systems and of national women's machineries was the first of 15 government action points identified in the 1995 Commonwealth Plan of Action on Gender and Development.

  • Trade contributes to all aspects of economic and social development. Export trade brings in earnings from foreign exchange, while domestic commerce underpins the employment sector. However, the enormous potential contribution of women to the trade sector has rarely been fully acknowledged.

  • The essential contribution of trade to all aspects of economic and social development is clearly recognised. Trade bisects other essential developmental areas such as agriculture, processing, manufacturing and industry, services, communications and transport, health, education, rural development, and so on. Export trade brings foreign exchange earnings for essential imports while domestic commerce is a major employment sector and ensures supplies to all parts of the country.

  • The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action emanating from the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, to which all Commonwealth countries are signatories, agreed a number of basic principles for gender equality and equity. The Platform for Action draws attention to several factors of particular importance to the trade sector.

  • The rapid increase in information – press, television, advertising, the internet, and so on, means that women everywhere are being made aware of the new opportunities for personal achievement that await them. More and more young women can have access to higher levels of education and thus, better equipped for competition with their male counterparts, are breaking the chains of traditional gender roles. In many countries, the trend is for women to marry later, to practise family planning and to hold down an income-generating job, thus raising the standard of living for themselves and for their children.

  • If the gender mainstreaming and equality principles expressed in the Beijing Declaration and the 1995 Commonwealth Plan of Action on Gender and Development are to be widely understood and effectively applied by Commonwealth governments, they need to be used as inputs at all stages of the conception, implementation and monitoring of the national development plan and, more specifically, in the implementation of strategies set out in the various sectoral (ministerial) plans.

  • In order to promote the advancement of gender equality/equity in the trade sector, the following nine strategic objectives are recommended. Governments may wish to consider which of these should have the highest priority, based on particular national circumstances. Specific action points are suggested in most cases.

  • An example of a specifically women-oriented trade development programme is that of the Government of India's Trade-related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD) programme, financed by the United Nations Development Programme, directed to building the capacities of national level institutions including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with women's/gender issues, and to support product, market and grass-roots level institutional development.