Taking account of women’s perspectives is crucial not only to raise awareness of the challenges they face in terms of gender equality but also to achieve sustainable peace through trade in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAs), said Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang on 31 March. Delivering opening remarks at a webinar titled “A trade for peace perspective on women’s empowerment in FCAs”, DDG Zhang stressed that the WTO’s Trade for Peace Programme can offer a platform to discuss concrete actions in support of women entrepreneurs and businesses in these countries. His full speech is below.



Thank you, Nicole.
Ladies and gentlemen,

I'm delighted to join you here today to talk about women's economic empowerment. International Women's Day has passed, but we can still celebrate women throughout March, which is International Women's History Month.

I want to thank the Accessions Division for their efforts to support the participation of fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) in the WTO through the Trade for Peace Programme, and this time, focusing on women's empowerment, especially of women entrepreneurs and businesses. I trust that bringing their voices and perspectives into the conversations on trade and peace is crucial not only to raise awareness on the challenges they face when it comes to gender equality, but also to find solutions to achieve sustainable peace through trade in FCS.

Although women nowadays play a greater role in politics, economics, and development, gender disparities still remain. Women represent half of the world's population, but they only contribute to 37 percent of the global GDP(1). That's not enough. We can do much better than that, because all humanity — men and women, young and old — would benefit from the economic empowerment of women.

There is no doubt that trade can contribute to women's economic empowerment through the creation of job opportunities and higher wages for them. Trade brings more resources to the household, which in turn has a positive effect on increasing the standards of living, even for future generations. Today's discussion is very timely, as we will explore ways in which women can participate in trade, especially those traders or entrepreneurs from fragile and conflict-affected states like the ladies we have here today. For instance, what kind of policies are needed to support business opportunities for women? Given the very challenging circumstances in FCS, what more can the international community do to support women entrepreneurs and businesses in these countries?

I'm very excited to hear personal stories from women entrepreneurs from Afghanistan, Somalia, and South Sudan in this panel. I look forward to understanding the challenges they face in running their businesses, and also learning about the innovative solutions they have found.

The Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala always says that the WTO is about people — about making people's lives better — and this has to include women, including those in fragile and conflict-affected states. I believe that starting conversation is essential, but it is not enough. It must translate into action. I hope that the Trade for Peace Programme can offer a platform to discuss and share ideas for concrete actions which can make an impact in FCS through women economic empowerment.

Thank you!




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