April 28: Experts have cautioned that flawed policies that do not recognize gender-differentiated impacts of policies and reforms may end up hurting women entrepreneurial ecosystem.
They expressed such view during a webinar titled ‘Gender Dimensions of Trade Facilitation: Evidence from Nepal’ organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) on Tuesday, April 27.
Making a presentation of the findings of the study, Senior Research Officer of SAWTEE, Dikshya Singh, said that dismal participation of women entrepreneurs in international trade can be largely attributed to their engagement in producing unsuitable products such as easily perishable food items, high concentration on the domestic market, and most importantly, the lack of knowledge about foreign markets and buyers.
A press statement issued by SAWTEE says the findings were based on a two-and-a-half-year study conducted by SAWTEE, along with CUTS International, India, to examine the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in international trade.
Along with the issues related to productive capacity and quality, lack of information about foreign markets means they face difficulty in establishing new business contacts in foreign markets, the findings suggest.
Likewise, the absence of female representation at the policy-making level and at the operation level, customs and other logistics chain, mean many women entrepreneur-specific issues are not addressed at the policy level, added Singh.
Dr Posh Raj Pandey, chairman of SAWTTE, emphasized that although trade and export help economic growth through employment and income generation if policies are flawed then they might further deteriorate gender inequality by inadvertently discriminating against the sectors that employ more women.
Senior Economist Dr Bina Pradhan pointed out that enterprise development policies designed in such a way that equate women entrepreneurship only as part of poverty alleviation programmes do not help to scale up women-led enterprises.
“Policies have been looking into women’s economic activities through a flawed gendered lens condemning women to the sectors that do not offer opportunities to climb up the value chains. Even the language used in the National Trade Integration Strategy shows that,” the statement quoted Pradhan as saying.
Former President of Nepal Freight Forwarders Association, Rajan Sharma, pointed out that workers in the trade logistics chain –behind the border, at the border and beyond the border—are predominantly male. Therefore, to increase participation of women in these chains requires sensitizing existing participants to accommodate women’s involvement at different levels of trade.
Shobha Gurung, vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Cottage and Small Industries, said even veteran entrepreneurs lack the information about dealing in foreign markets.
Former Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Supplies, Rabi Shankar Sainju, suggested mobilizing diplomatic missions of Nepal all over the world so that at least they can act as trade envoys.
According to SAWTEE, the participants in the webinar included women entrepreneurs, representatives from civil society organizations, policymakers and academia. The participants pointed out limited access to information for the women entrepreneurs and the need for coordinated efforts from stakeholders to build the capacity of entrepreneurs.