Following last month's launch of SheTrades Commonwealth, a new initiative designed to 'break down gender barriers in international trade', GADN policy officer Marion Sharples wrote a response to the announcement in Devex.
While the SheTrades initiative is no doubt well-intended, it assumes that what women need is greater access to trade. In reality, women's lives are already affected in myriad ways by international trade - and for the majority of women, these experiences are negative.
Ranging from public service provision, the protection of investor interests, poor working conditions, and reduced governments funds for expenditure on public measures to promote gender equality, global trade already has profound implications on women's lives.
Analysing trade from a gender perspective is greatly needed, but interventions must be well-targeted if they are to be meaningful and effective. If trade is to promote gender equality and women's rights, governments must:
1. Make human rights and gender equality commitments central to trade agreements.
2. Investigate impacts on gender equality before signing trade agreements, and mitigate adverse impacts.
3. Guarantee that governments’ ability to spend and legislate toward the promotion of gender equality is not compromised by trade agreements.
4. Ensure trade negotiations are transparent, accountable, and consultative.