women and trade

Making Aid for Trade work for women

Aid for Trade supports developing and least-developed countries in building their trade capacity and in increasing their exports by addressing four key areas: trade policy and regulations; economic infrastructure; building productive capacity; and trade-related adjustment. Gender issues have been an intrinsic part of Aid for Trade since its inception. Through Aid for Trade, the WTO has focused on building the trading capacity of women and helping them use trade as a tool for their economic development.

Objectives of Aid for Trade

The final report of the Aid for Trade Task Force, created in 2006, states: “Aid for trade should be rendered in a coherent manner taking full account … of the gender perspective and of the overall goal of sustainable development…. Donors and partner countries jointly commit to the harmonization of efforts on cross-cutting issues, such as gender.”

Women's economic empowerment through Aid for Trade

Donors and partner countries have increasingly integrated gender issues into their Aid for Trade objectives. The 2019 Monitoring and Evaluation Exercise reveals that women's economic empowerment is now high on the agendas of both donors and partner countries. Today, 84% of donors' Aid for Trade strategies and 85% of partner countries' national or regional development strategies seek to promote women's economic empowerment.

The main target group of gender-related Aid for Trade initiatives is women entrepreneurs.

While gender is now fully part of members' Aid for Trade objectives, it has not been fully integrated in their Aid for Trade priorities. This mismatch helps explain the difficulty in assessing the impact of Aid for Trade on women's economic empowerment. It also shows the challenge of translating objectives into work programmes.

Aid for Trade flows

There are two types of Aid for Trade support for gender issues:

  • gender-specific programmes/projects
  • programmes/projects where gender is one of the focus areas.

Almost all Aid for Trade flows go to programmes/projects where gender is one of the objectives. Between 2006 and 2017, USD 3.4 billion was disbursed to gender-specific programmes/projects (less than 1% of overall disbursements – USD 300 billion). A total of USD 45 billion was spent on programmes/projects where gender is one of the objectives (12% of overall disbursements).

Aid for Trade work programmes

Gender issues have been integrated into Aid for Trade programmes since 2017:

Aid for Trade Global Reviews

2019 Global Review sessions on gender issues

3 July 2019

5 July 2019

5 July 2019

Current work

As part of its Monitoring and Evaluation Exercise (M&E), the WTO has developed a questionnaire on women and Aid for Trade. The data gathered will help to identify where gender gaps are and how WTO members integrate gender issues into Aid for Trade projects.

The analysis will be used to develop indicators aimed at supporting WTO members in better targeting Aid for Trade and making it work for women. This work is currently being developed in collaboration with the OECD. It will be presented at the Global Review in July 2022 and at the WTO International Research Conference on Trade and Gender to be held in December 2022.