A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development



altSixty-six participants from 40 countries have successfully completed the first edition of the Virtual Institute online course on trade and gender, held January 19 to March 8.

Developed in cooperation with UNCTAD’s Trade, Gender and Development Section, the online course is part of a joint capacity-building project funded by the Government of Finland. Closely following the successful three-phase model of the Vi project on trade and poverty completed last year, the trade and gender project includes the development of teaching materials, training of academics and practitioners, and mentoring of researchers as they undertake original research on the topic.

The ultimate goal of the project is to equip academics, government officials and civil society with the knowledge necessary to analyze the two-way relationship between trade and gender, and to produce gender-aware policy recommendations.

“Trade and gender is currently at the heart of development thinking, since incorporating gender into economic analysis allows us to capture the social and cultural aspects of our economy,” said course graduate Elias Bagumhe, of Tanzania’s Ministry of East African Cooperation. “This is critically needed for inclusive growth.”

The three-module course combined readers, multimedia lectures and current literature to introduce concepts and analytical frameworks; explore the effects of trade on women’s well-being and economic empowerment; and explain how gender-based inequalities affect trade performance. All participants agreed the course had met or exceeded their expectations and enhanced their knowledge of the trade-gender links.

“I have learnt that trade not only affects gender, but that the existing gender structure also affects trade performance,” said Fatima Olanike Kareem, of Nigeria’s Trade and Development Policy Research Network. “This is interesting as I had thought trade and gender was a one-way relationship before I took the course.”

“The course was successful in explaining how to examine the gender profile of an economy by looking at the economy through a gender lens, thus making visible the unpaid household-based work of caring for others that is important for continued functioning of the market-oriented economy and also identifying how gender inequality affects women in the multiple roles they play in the economy,” said Paul Macaulay, of the Organization for Gender, Civic Engagement and Youth Development in Cameroon.

According to the feedback received, the course succeeded in preparing participants to conduct their own research on the topic, and/or incorporate trade and gender concepts into their teaching and policy-related work, with respondents citing 61 ideas for research projects, 27 for inclusion in their teaching and 31 for policy design.

“I will be lobbying the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency to disaggregate trade data by sex to enable researchers to carry out more informed studies on how men and women are impacted differently by trade,” said Evengelista Mudzonga, of the Zimbabwe Economic Policy and Research Unit.

“I have already incorporated this topic into the teaching syllabus for my MPhil Economics students and hope to teach them some of the concepts in the coming weeks,” said Daniel Sakyi, of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. “I am going to include the gender issues in the list of topics suggested to our students for elaboration of Master's theses,” added Paskal Zhelev, of Bulgaria’s University of National and World Economy.

“The recommendations of the course about improving female workers' capacity when the economy shifts from labour-intensive production to one with more technological content will be considered from now on in my studies about the changes in Vietnamese economic structure and type of production,” said Nguyet Vu, of Viet Nam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The last phase of project will offer training on the empirical analysis of trade and gender through a regional workshop scheduled for June 15-19 in South Africa, and provide funding and mentoring of selected projects proposed by participants from lower-income and least developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa.