The United Nations fifth Sustainable Development Goals call for gender equality and empowering women and girls, however, little has been said on how this can be done and with the new norms, the proposed solutions could be outdated.
In their latest weekly Trade Talk, the Namibian Trade Forum roped in Beatrice Schultz - Future Females' Ambassador and Akoma Trading co-founder.
According to Schultz, one way to empower women and achieve the fifth SDG is to advocate trade openness, which involves tariff liberalisation and efficient operation at border posts.
She said if that is achieved, women's welfare would be enhanced.
Schultz said the biggest challenge for women is paying the import duty when they import stock or goods for consumption.
"As a result, tariff liberalisation would lower the costs for women consumers and improve their welfare," Schultz wrote.
She highlighted barriers that prevent women from exporting goods.
These are logistical, domestic and foreign administration, border constraints, financial risk, market knowledge, financing and cash flow, intellectual property, and ownership of business.
She said female consumer patterns in the USA suggest that products specifically consumed by women have a higher tariffs.
"This is the result of higher applied tariffs and greater spending on imported goods by women," stated Schultz.
She revealed that in the textile sector, for instance, the tariff burden on women's apparel was US$2,77 billion higher than on men's clothing, and this gender gap grew by 11% in real terms between 2006 and 2016.
A recent study of 54 developing countries by the World Bank and World Trade Organisation suggests that eliminating import tariffs could improve women's real income.
"This would result in a rise in real income for female-headed households relative to male-headed households in more than three-quarters of the countries sampled," the study revealed.
Schultz stated that although there is a growing awareness of the gender biases in trade, there is still much to be done to level the playing field.
She said better policies can help women overcome the challenges of trade and maximise their benefits.
"However, for women to benefit; policymakers need to actively address the challenges that trade itself can create while introducing complementary policies that enable women to fully participate in the economy," said Schultz.
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in lockdowns, restricted movement of people as well as limited resources - women, in general, were adversely impacted economically especially in low-income countries, the World Trade Organisation revealed.
Sectors such as tourism and hospitality - in which women are employers or employees - have been hit hard by international travel and trade restrictions to contain the pandemic.
Other sectors, including food services and handicrafts, that depend on tourism and employ a large number of women, have also been hard hit.
The working-from-home norm as a way of practising social distancing has worsened their predicament because many women cannot work from home, especially in sectors that require face-to-face interactions like small-scale manufacturing.
Schultz said with lower information technology literacy rates and inadequate access to internet facilities; and a much bigger burden of childcare became a norm, women's capacity to generate income was limited.
Schools closure, also prevented women from working from home.
In addition, lower financial resources put the survival of women-owned businesses at greater risk, she said.
Schultz said new online platforms have given women the opportunity to bypass these barriers and expand their entrepreneurial skills, as well as provide them with the flexibility to help them manage work and other responsibilities.
However, as NSA shows in their 2019 cross-border assessment most women are using the small ungazetted border posts - these are not fitted with the latest customs technology/programmes to improve efficiency.
The dream of many informal women traders "being able to trade easily and effectively is still a way off, however, as we work together through beneficial collaborations, we can equip, empower and support women," said Schultz.
She said everyone is needed in the conversation; "We need men to use their spaces and networks to make them more inclusive and we need all businesses to be gender-sensitive in their operations as well as recruitments into senior management".
Schultz said the government needs to develop more gender-inclusive policies at border posts, adding that some hope is on the African Continental Trade Area, which theoretically is being implemented this year.
Email: [email protected]