This is the story of a woman in the 1960's. Picture her. She is young, educated, driven, speaks numerous languages. She lives in Jerusalem, and she is working. What does she do? She empowers other young women, poor and uneducated, teaching them a trade with the objectives of being economically independent and earning income.

She was fighting for other women's economic rights and power.

This is also the story of a man. Picture him. He is an an international trader and a globe-trotter. He is travelling the world, setting up factories, making trade deals. In the 70's, he was the first to take action to advance the career paths of women in his company.

He appointed a woman as the head of his operations. Above all, he instilled in her the idea that education would ensure she became independent in the future. He encouraged his daughter to believe that she too could rise in a company, could lead it. 

Why am I telling you these stories?

Because the link between them and the reason we are all here today, is economic power! Women's empowerment starts with economic power and their social and political powers stem from it.

I know this first hand, because that woman is my mother, and that man is my father.

And just as international trade and women's empowerment are the legacy I inherited from my parents, so too the WTO inherited from the GATT a set of objectives that can similarly strengthen women economically across the globe. Expanded to sustainable development, these objectives make the WTO a major player in strengthening women’s economic and financial capacity.

Trade has the power to change women's lives for the better. I am convinced of this. But it works only if trade policies incorporate gender equality issues to level the trade field for women.  This has yet to occur, inequalities persist, as indeed we learnt over the last few days of this Congress.  

Why is this so urgently needed? Because women are at the core of economies, societies, communities, families, and history making.

When we conduct research, we often qualify women as workers, entrepreneurs, consumers. While such categorizations are essential for data collection and analysis, I believe this is a narrow way of looking at women.

Yes, women are entrepreneurs. There are half a billion involved in entrepreneurial activities globally. And that is just in the formal sector. They support the productive capacity of countries. They are also job creators, therefore contributing to poverty reduction.

But women are also innovators. Did you know that about 30% of women entrepreneurs globally offer innovative products? Did you know that firms with female Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) are more innovative than firms with male CTOs?

Women are drivers of economic diversification. They tend to be more involved in the services sector thus fostering diversification. Some countries are actually including measures supporting women's economic roles as part of their new economic diversification strategies.

Women are climate change mitigators. In developing countries, they are natural resources managers. Through this role, women have actually become experts in maintaining biodiversity on land and at sea by developing eco-friendly technics. Women are in fact circular economists.

Women are health care givers and workers as clearly revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 70% of heath care workers are female. Globally, 606 million women deliver full-time unpaid care, compared to only 41 million men. Women truly are the guardians of our health, and their unpaid health care contributes annually to 1.5 trillion US dollars to the global economy.

Women are agents of food security. As cross border traders, they play a key role in food security, nutrition and health, as they mostly deal in essential food products for poor consumers, therefore supporting balanced diets of populations. Through their trade, they also deliver food to places where supply is lacking. Their key role is undeniable. In West Africa, for example, female informal traders in essential food represent about 30% of total trade in the region.

Women are peace builders. While treaties create peace, they don't always nurture and sustain them. People do and women are frequently at the heart of ongoing reconstruction. Just look at history!

Women are leaders too, although not enough are in decision-making roles. There are 31 female heads of state or governments in the world today. And in the WTO, women represent 36% of Ambassadors and about 30% of Ministers in charge of WTO Affairs are female.

Women can also be revolutionaries, as we can see witness today. Not to destroy, but to build new open societies. And in doing so, they also become reformers.

All their roles bring women back to trade that can strengthen them economically. This is what the WTO has engaged to do 6 years ago: Make trade work for women.

2023 will be a pivotal year for the WTO. It will be a year of project development and to strategically head towards unexplored territories and topics. And I have already mentioned some of these plans to a few of you this week.

Someone said to me during the Congress that it was nice to see the small trade and gender family united, well, why don’t we expand it and invest in young professionals and young researchers?

So, in November 2023, the WTO Gender Research Hub will organise the youth symposium to build the next generation of trade and gender experts.

Lastly, in 2023, I would like to take the work of the WTO Gender Research Hub to the next level for tangible impact with a new 2-year work plan that will lead us to the 2nd edition of the World Trade Congress on Gender in December 2024.

We will only advance if we collaborate with each other and I believe that the WTO’s emerging partnerships on gender with WIPO, UN Women, and regional organisations such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association are vital to this process.

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said:  “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on the fighting the old, but on building the new.”

This wisdom fits the WTO work on gender like a glove !

With these words, I am now closing the World Trade Congress on Gender 2022 and invite you all back in the WTO in December 2024, for its second edition.

Thank you.




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