Seventy-seven researchers, government officials and civil society representatives, including 47 women, from 44 countries, successfully completed the second edition of the Vi online course on trade and gender, held January 4 to February 21.

Delivered jointly with UNCTAD's Trade, Gender and Development Work Programme, the course was part of a capacity-building project on trade and gender funded by the government of Finland.

Based on Volume 1 of the Vi teaching material on trade and gender, the course used a combination of readers, multimedia lectures, additional readings and tutor support to introduce the concepts and analytical frameworks related to trade and gender, and analyse the impact of trade on women’s well-being and economic empowerment, as well as the effects of gender-based inequalities on countries' trade performance.

"I feel this course is an excellent introduction to the prevalent economic conditions faced by women. It begins with the basic issues as to why women may not have similar access as men to employment opportunities. As international trade is an important factor of economic growth, this course does well to explain why women may not benefit from expansion of international trading activities", said Aadil Nakhoda, of the Institute of Business Administration in Pakistan.

The ultimate objective of the coursewas to provide participants with the knowledge needed to analyze the two-way relationship between trade and gender, and ultimately produce gender-aware policy recommendations.

As Tsitsi Effie Mutambara, of the Rhodes University, South Africa, put it: "The course brought out gender-related issues which I had never thought about. I was able to see trade theory and policy from a very different point of view."

Overall, the participants said the course met or exceeded their expectations, and that they left the course not only with better knowledge of the two-way relationship between trade and gender, but also very motivated to apply it in their work.

Plans to undertake trade and gender-related research abound among the participants, with fifty-eight ideas to use the course knowledge in this area.

"I am going to develop a paper on the relationship of trade and gender with the current climate challenges facing Southern Africa", proposed Diana Kawenda, of the North-West University in South Africa. "I will continue researching about inequalities in regional trade agreements, including gender inequalities, for my doctoral thesis," added Pamela Torres from Ecuador, currently a PhD candidate at the Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle University in France.

According to Mbembe Binda, of the University of Rwanda, "reports on informal trade in the Great Lakes region are scarce; yet, such trade is very important for the economies of these countries and the welfare of their citizens, especially women. For this reason, I have undertaken to conduct a survey on the current trends of informal cross-border trade between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. This may assist investors to find out which facilities or small-scale industries are needed to boost the economic development of this region."

Thirty-two participants intend to integrate their new knowledge into their teaching, in particular classes on international economics, international trade theory and policy, gender and project management, ethics and social responsibility, SME economics, international trade finance, and agricultural economics.

At times, the plans go beyond one single course. For instance, Thokozani Ngwira, of Tanzania's Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa, reports that "our institution will soon embark on reviewing its curriculum and I will play a leading role in reviewing the extent to which gender is mainstreamed in our courses."

Finally, 32 ideas suggested by the participants relate to policy formulation, advice and advocacy. Adam Willie, of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe, plans to "do an evaluation of how gender sensitive is our national trade policy. Data analysis will be done to provide empirical evidence to justify mainstreaming gender in trade policy."

His fellow course participant, Olu Ikulajolu, of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, maintains that: "Women should be encouraged and their voice must be heard on the constraints they encounter in trading activities. My personal efforts will be deployed to assisting women trade to grow."

The participants also expressed the wish to participate in other Vi online courses. "It is my first time to participate in the course sponsored by the Virtual Institute. My experience with the Institute is very impressive. Hopefully I shall have more opportunities to attend its future courses," said Qiang Wang, of the Tianjin Dongli Commission of Commerce in China.

"I would definitely recommend this course for others," added Sunimalee Madurawala, of the Institute of Policy Studies in Sri Lanka. To put this idea into practice, Beatrice Simwapenga Hamusonde, Director of Gender and Social Affairs at the COMESA Secretariat in Zambia, intends to "partner with UNCTAD to deliver this course to my colleagues at the COMESA Secretariat, institutions and member states."