Country Action Plans
The Sri Lankan participants proposed to set up a task force for women in trade through the good offices of the Women’s Chamber and involve stakeholders both in the public and the private sector after a process of identification. They also proposed a process of according due recognition to women entrepreneurs through a system of awards for outstanding entrepreneurs.
The participants also suggested that training of trainers should be conducted in weaving and other allied industries such as leather. It also proposed that women clusters and cooperatives of women should be encouraged to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship. Also, they proposed that women should have greater exposure to the real market situations by facilitating their participation in local and international trade fairs.
Detailed strategies were to be worked out for the short, medium and long terms. In order to evaluate the success of the action plans, they proposed to carry out impact assessment studies and group surveys while striving ultimately to make the initiatives appear in national and international statistics reflecting greater participation of women in productive activities. Participants also noted the fact that an attempt should be made to customize the statistics and increase the overall availability of gender disaggregated data.
In general, there is a lack of understanding and awareness of gender issues and consequently gender related works become quite difficult in the country. There is a need to increase awareness about gender related issues and how it affects peoples’ daily lives. Participants noted the fact that Maldives was a net food importing country with an overall trade deficit. In order to make up for the trade deficit, the participants noted that tourism promotion is an important area for increased participation of women. As the participation of women in the tourism sector was low and sub-optimal participants noted that there was plenty of scope impart skills and training in this area for absorption of women in the tourism workforce. Already, women play an important part in the farming systems. The panel of experts suggested that the interventions and action plans were not clear and the team needed to work further in the issue for identification of concrete strategies and interventions. The participants did not elaborate on any methodology for evaluation of their gender related interventions.
Participants from Nepal noted the fact that women are preferred for employment in the services sector. Tourism is an important sector which contributes to around 4% of GDP and leads to employment generation of around 1.5 million persons directly or indirectly. In general, there is unequal distribution and control over resources in a gender perspective. The participants noted the fact often in economic decision making gender perspectives are not taken into consideration and participation of women and gender experts in trade policy formulation need to be increased.
Preliminary data suggests that there is patchy data about the participation of women in tourism in Nepal. Moreover, gender disaggregated data does not exist. The current understanding is that women are concentrated in low paying jobs and are not in decision making position. Also, there are security related concerns for working women in tourism. By way of an action plan, participants suggested creation of a task force which would have the broad participation of all concerned stakeholders including international NGOs. The task force would be set up under the Ministry of Tourism. The task force would sensitise the concerned ministries about the need to keep in mind a gender perspective while formulating trade and export promotion policies. The participants submitted that impact assessments are rarely done in their country and the same needs to be carried out now.
Inter-alia, the task force would attempt to map value chains in different sectors and develop strategies for increasing the involvement of women in high paying jobs. Also, it can carry out an assessment of the intake of women in professional institutions and courses and suggest ways in which the participation of women can be increased.
Participants noted that the Parliament in Pakistan has taken a number of steps towards political empowerment of women. Thus for instance, 33% of the seats in the Senate are reserved for women. This has set the stage for economic empowerment of women as well. The government has initiated a ‘one village one product scheme’ under which a detailed analysis of all selected products such as tiles, embroidery, Hashikari, jewellery would be carried out. The analysis would cover aspects such as design, marketing, technology upgradation and support would be provided to the craftsmen. It is hoped that the scheme would benefit the women entrepreneurs also.
It was argued that though a number of products are made by women in the country, women entrepreneurs face a number of challenges relating to scaling up, technological upgradation, accessing credits from banks, forging linkages with the market, sourcing raw materials, designs and other related issues. There are a number of economic opportunities arising in the horticulture sector.
The participants wanted to initiate a project in the Public Private Partnership mode with the stakeholders including educational institutions and government agencies such as Ministries of women development. The project would focus on missing links which impede greater participation of women in economic activities. Products would be selected and the project would seek to strengthen the existing schemes such as ‘one village one product’ model and facilitate entry into both domestic and international markets. The nodal Ministry for the project, Ministry of Women Development which has been created especially for the economic empowerment of women would be involved in the project and it would work collaboratively with other concerned Ministries such as Commerce.
In general, Bangladesh has in place a National policy for Development of Women which seeks to achieve equality between men and women in all spheres of decision making structures by establishing institutions and creating resources for faster development of women in all spheres of life.
The textiles and clothing sector employs a significant proportion of women and it is termed as a women led sector. Despite the phasing away of the quota system in the global textile trade, the Textiles and Clothing sector in the country has performed much better than was predicted. However, the sector faces a number of challenges and the participants identified several priority areas for intervention. They suggested that the sector needs to work on diversification of products and building a safety net especially for women workers in industries which have either closed down or are likely to do so in the future.
The participants said that there should be a focus on developing the leather industry by providing incentives as leather is an upcoming export oriented industry and has a great employment potential. Moreover, the participants said that efforts should also be made to build the capacity of workers and impart new skills. The sector as a whole would benefit from greater international cooperation and aggressive marketing globally.
The participants agreed to work for securing greater opportunities for women in trade fairs and organise knowledge based programmes for enhancing awareness of potential economic opportunities in the sector. They also were keen to catalyse public private joint ventures. The participants volunteered to carry out value chain sectoral studies and conduct more training programmes while advocating for greater technology transfer in areas where the industry is lagging behind. The participants also pointed towards the need for having more training and capacity building programmes for women entrepreneurs. They felt that awards to women entrepreneurs and media coverage would be an aid in securing economic empowerment of women.
Participants from India focused on the food processing and agro business industry. India is the largest food producer in the world and is one of the top producers of fruits and vegetable, spices, milk and marine products. The sector affords employment to nearly 13 million persons out of which a significant proportion are women. Most of the employment is in the unorganized sector.
The participants agreed to work on making the existing agro-business promotion schemes more accessible for women. They also expressed willingness to work for setting up more food processing and training centers, food parks and so on. They also agreed to push for policy initiatives which would foster greater development of the sector such as exemptions of most food processing industries from licensing procedures which would permit greater participation of women who lack access to credit and other productive resources including market research, technology transfer and so on. The participants showed willingness to advocate for engendering economic policies relating to the food processing sector and also catalyse Self Help Groups to take up food processing activities. They also agreed to spread awareness of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) and other Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).