The inaugural edition of the World Trade Congress on Gender closed on 7 December, marking the first time the WTO has brought together researchers and government officials to discuss women’s empowerment through trade.
Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard said the research conference demonstrates the growing importance of trade and gender issues in the WTO and that the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) may be an opportunity for WTO members to build on the success of the event.
"With more than 80 speakers and 15 sessions, this is the first time in the history of the WTO that we have held discussions on trade and gender of such magnitude," DDG Ellard said at the closing session. "I'm so glad to see the WTO at the vanguard of work on such a significant topic."
"The Congress marks the first time that we put in direct contact WTO members and researchers in the area of trade and gender," DDG Ellard said. Civil society representatives also featured as speakers in the Congress and in the closing session. "I hope that you found the Congress useful in allowing you to exchange ideas," DDG Ellard added.
"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," said Anoush der Boghossian, the Head of the WTO Trade and Gender Unit.
"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," Ms der Boghossian said.
Ms der Boghossian announced that the WTO Gender Research Hub will also organise a youth symposium in November 2023 to develop the next generation of trade and gender experts. Her full speech is available here.
Olanike Olugboji, founder of the Women's Initiative for Sustainable Environment, one of the civil society representatives appointed as one of the five Congress Ambassadors, provided recommendations at the closing session. Gender issues should be mainstreamed into existing and future trade agreements, barriers to women's participation in trade such as lack of finance and disparities in education should be addressed, and more investments should be channelled into women-led climate initiatives and green enterprises, Olugboji said.
Anila Noor, founder of New Women Connectors, another of the five Congress Ambassadors, said the research and discussions on gender equality in trade seen in the past few days should be transformed into action.