New Alliance Guidelines Put Gender Sensitisation to Work

The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation today published detailed gender mainstreaming guidelines that are being applied across its projects to ensure women and men benefit equally from its support to trade reform efforts in developing countries.

The publication of its Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines represents the Alliance’s determination to not only better understand the hurdles facing women in trade or preventing them from entering global markets, but to refine its own approaches and share its vision as a means to breaking down these seemingly intractable barriers.

The guidelines have been created by drawing on reviews of industry best practices as well as the Alliance’s own experience in implementing trade facilitation projects that aim to make trade simpler, easier, and more cost-effective. As such, they represent the Alliance’s recognition that trade reform is hardly ever gender neutral and that women often face steeper hurdles in realising the benefits of trade facilitation. The Alliance published a lessons learned paper on sensitising gender in trade reform last September to detail the best practices that helped inform the creation of these guidelines.

In many societies, cultural and structural factors limit employment opportunities for women to certain industries and roles, restricting their ability to develop their skills or break into world markets at the same rate as men. They also face the burden of being primarily responsible for their households, thereby constraining their time and monetary resources.

Based on its research and experience, the Alliance believes that by being attentive to the gender situation in each country setting and speaking with women and women’s groups to best understand their challenges, trade facilitation projects can be shaped, implemented, and evaluated in ways that can empower women entrepreneurs, traders, and employees.

The Alliance’s gender guidelines set out concrete steps to deliver projects that have gender sensitivity built in from the outset. They explain how gender considerations can be introduced during the project exploration phases, referred to as pre-scoping and scoping, through to design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

The process begins with gaining an understanding of the gender situation in each country context and by ensuring that women have a voice in stakeholder consultations and project discussions from the beginning. This also means identifying those groups that best represent women in trade and other female beneficiaries of projects, whether women’s business associations or chambers of commerce.

How project teams consult with women is also important. Meetings and consultations need to be timed and arranged to best accommodate other demands on their time, which requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach to outreach strategies.

Gender also should be considered in terms of the participation and roles of women in the industries that are expected to benefit from trade facilitation projects. For example, attention should be paid to how women or women-owned businesses use formal and informal trading routes.

By understanding these gender differences, projects can be implemented in ways that best recognise the unique situations women face, involve them in practical ways, and deliver results equitably.

The Alliance’s guidelines also emphasise gender sensitivity in describing, monitoring, and evaluating a project’s milestones and progress towards its goals, to ensure that the expected benefits are being realised and mitigation applied where outcomes look to be unequal.

Trade represents a key lever for reaching Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and, in particular, in furthering women’s economic empowerment. While these guidelines are just one element in this effort, they represent an important step forward for the Alliance in contributing to gender equality. We hope that by making them publicly available, other organizations can build off best practices to make strides towards equitable outcomes in trade facilitation reform, while also keeping the Alliance accountable to deliver gender sensitive operations.

Click here to read the full Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines.