Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has stressed the importance of trade in supporting women-led small businesses in addressing climate change and fostering innovation.
At a workshop jointly organised by the Informal Working Group on micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs), Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender and the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), Okonjo said coming together and coordinating actions are important for promoting trade and industry as the body works towards greater inclusivity.
She added that understanding and eliminating barriers holding women back from entrepreneurship and participation in international trade is urgent. Noting that one-third of global businesses are owned or led by women, she said there is still nowhere near parity with men-owned businesses.
Outlining some gender-biased misconceptions, such as the belief that women are less suitable for entrepreneurship and lack skills and the ability to innovate, she said we must correct these thoughts and assertions by creating and making available to women-led trade enterprises, the tools they need and appropriate responses, particularly regarding digital applications and trade finance.
Entitled “Women-led MSMEs, Trade and Climate Change — Adapting and Investing for the Future,” the workshop sought to offer a joint solutions lab to highlight the importance of addressing inclusivity in WTO discussions and rulemaking and underlining the link between sustainability and inclusivity.
Kicking off with a round table that emphasised the importance of the three groups working together to bring coherence to members’ work, the session highlighted examples of how women-led MSMEs are assisted at the national level, with a particular focus on poorer people.
At another panel consisting of entrepreneurs, they shared the challenges that women-led small businesses face when trying to integrate environmental and social considerations into their business activities and proposed changes that could help overcome these challenges.