In an era of increasing globalization, trade is an essential tool with which we can promote gender equality. By building specific gender perspectives into trade policy, we can use a ‘spillover effect’ to improve gender equality on an international scale.

Introducing gender perspectives into trade policy and devising specific policy responses is key to making trade a driver for sustainable development and an essential way to activate women. Trade policy impacts men and women differently as they have different economic and social roles and different access to and control over resources[1]. EWA believes that international trade is historically one of the most powerful ways to improve international relations, promote cultural exchange and encourage openness between nations. In order to achieve this, however, inequality and exploitation of women and their employment needs to come to an end.

Trade liberalisation can benefit poor consumers by driving down prices. However, as it increases international competition, this puts pressure on individuals and companies to develop quickly. This often leaves women behind, disrupting economic sectors where women are active, depriving them of employment opportunities and pushing them towards the informal sector[2].

Greater equality in employment and education can have a positive impact on trade; a more productive workforce increases the rates of return on investment and attracts more investors. To achieve this we need a greater accumulation of human capital of women and girls. This is problematic when we look at developing countries where cheap, female workforces are taken advantage of (e.g. in sweatshops). It could here be argued that, here, gender inequality generates investment. However, this is counterproductive in the long run, making inequalities more persistent and worsening conditions for fair, global competition. Studies on economic growth suggest that societies where income inequality and gender discrimination are lower tend to grow faster[3].

Call to action:

  1. Implement a specific Chapter on Gender Equality and female empowerment in trade agreements that incentivises and promotes this equality;
  2. Provide necessary resources to ensure the implementation of this Chapter[4]Evaluation of the gender impacts of different trade measures and instruments, notably on:
  3. Workers and the labour market;
  4. Access to public services;
  5. Barriers for women owned/led firms;
  6. Consistency among different, but interlinked, policies such as development, employment, migration and gender equality;
  7. Facilitate the organisation and network of advocacy platforms to promote access to trade