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Gender equality through trade

6 February 2012
Moving towards gender equality through economic empowerment of women

Commonwealth women entrepreneurs spoke about the challenges they face in trading their products internationally at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London on 3 February, ahead of attending Europe’s largest buyers fair.

The nine businesswomen from Africa and the Caribbean were selected from over 60 applicants to market their products at Spring Fair International in Birmingham, UK, from 5 to 9 February 2012, through sponsorship from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The programme includes a training workshop on gender and trade on 3 February, which was attended by both officials and the women exhibitors.

The initiative is aimed at breaking down the barriers and challenges that women face at a national level in regards to trade.

Gender inequality coupled with trade liberalisation processes can mean that women producers and exporters may struggle to secure the financial and other resources they need to develop their businesses properly and compete on an international scale.

The Secretariat in recognising this problem continues to make interventions to bring about a change of perceptions, policies and practices, helping to empower each generation to achieve more.

The Spring Fair International has a strong reputation for attracting a wide mix of international and local buyers from multi-chain retail stores to independent boutiques. During the workshop the women were given advice on preparing for the exhibition, approaching the fair’s organisers and other exhibitors, working with potential clients from the fair and getting value from investments. They also discussed some of the challenges they face in growing their businesses and exporting their products.

Representative from the Jamaican High Commission John Clarke commended the Commonwealth for the project which he said came at an important time for Jamaica.

“In Jamaica a priority goal is to increase our international competitiveness and increase Jamaica’s exports, so this is critical in achieving the national development goals in a context where we have a high national debt.”

Commercial Counsellor for the Kenyan High Commission Michael Sali Mandu said such initiatives would assist Kenya to promote typically women dominated industries through market access for commercial products such as handicrafts.