In a recent workshop jointly organized by the Informal Working Group on MSMEs, the Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender, and the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) on September 28, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala emphasized the significance of trade in supporting women-led small businesses, addressing climate change, and fostering innovation. The workshop aimed to promote inclusivity in WTO discussions and rulemaking while underscoring the connection between sustainability and inclusivity.
Director-General Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the importance of collaboration and coordination in achieving greater efficiency in advancing the work of the WTO towards inclusivity. She stressed the urgency of understanding and removing barriers hindering women's entrepreneurship and participation in international trade, emphasizing the need to identify and implement effective solutions.
Okonjo-Iweala pointed out that while one-third of global businesses are owned or led by women, the majority of women entrepreneurs are involved in micro enterprises, and achieving gender parity with men-owned businesses remains a challenge. She specifically highlighted the obstacles women face when attempting to register businesses or access financial resources.
Regarding climate change, Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the pressing need to rely on technology and entrepreneurship to find sustainable solutions in a world affected by climate challenges. She underscored the importance of supporting women-led trade enterprises by providing them with the necessary tools, particularly in digital applications and trade finance.
The Director-General also addressed gender-biased misconceptions that undermine women's potential in entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. She stressed the importance of correcting these misconceptions by offering women-led trade enterprises the tools and resources they require.
The workshop, titled "Women-led MSMEs, Trade, and Climate Change — Adapting and Investing for the Future," served as a collaborative "solutions lab" to highlight the significance of inclusivity in WTO discussions and rulemaking while emphasizing the link between sustainability and inclusivity.
The event commenced with a round table discussion, emphasizing the importance of collaboration among the three WTO groups to enhance coherence in members' efforts. The session showcased examples of how women-led MSMEs receive support at the national level, with a particular focus on indigenous communities.
A second panel featured entrepreneurs Amne Suedi Kagasheki, Founder and Managing Director of Shikana Investment and Advisory, and Rupa Ganguli, Founder and CEO of Inclusive Trade Ltd. They discussed the challenges faced by women-led small businesses when integrating environmental and social considerations into their operations. They also proposed changes to overcome these challenges, including the need for policy guidelines and legislation. Ms. Kagasheki emphasized the growing importance of social and environmental issues and advocated for tools to demonstrate positive environmental impacts, such as the Verify for Impact tool developed by Ms. Ganguli.
Ivania Arguedas of Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER) explained how local platforms in Costa Rica support women entrepreneurs by offering technical assistance, networking opportunities, and access to finance for sustainable trade activities.