Vibrant sustainable economies require the full inclusion and participation of all citizens and especially women, a joint statement by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) has said.
This should be anchored on creating opportunities for decent work driven by innovation and infrastructure development. Revenue authorities, due to their strategic role in trade within countries, are best positioned to initiate and marshal women participation in trade.
TMEA and URA made the statement while signing an MOU on Wednesday afternoon, during TMEA’s celebration of Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on 8th March.
According to a World Bank Group’s Women, Business and Law 2018 report, released last year in March, governments in 65 economies took steps to improve women’s economic inclusion, enacting 87 legal reforms in the past two years.
However, women continue to face widespread barriers, entrenched in laws that keep them out of jobs and prevent them from owning a business by restricting their access to credit or control over marital property, says the biennial report, which now monitors 189 economies. The report finds that in 104 economies women are barred from working at night or in certain jobs in many areas, including manufacturing, construction, energy, agriculture, water and transportation. This negatively affects the choices of more than 2.7 billion women.
“No economy can grow to its full potential unless women and men participate fully,” said World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva. “Yet in more than half the world women are still prevented from working in certain jobs simply because of their gender. The report finds that where there is gender equality in labor laws, more women work and earn more relative to men. Women should have the same equality of opportunity as men to provide for themselves, and to give their children the best start in life possible.”
Of the 189 economies examined, 45 do not have laws on domestic violence and 59 do not have laws against sexual harassment in employment. Overall, 21 economies receive a score of 0 in the protecting women from violence indicator. Many of these economies are located in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East and North Africa.
Building the capacity of women in trade
The new MOU between TMEA and URA stipulates the two institutions commitment to scale ongoing initiatives already undertaken by the revenue authority under the banner Women Traders Trade Facilitation Framework. Building the capacity of women in trade and simplifying customs clearance processes and procedures will be core of the initiatives supported. Further the two institutions will advocate for gender responsiveness among partners and stakeholders, improve access to trade information and build platforms that will enhance communication between URA and women traders.
Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) CEO Mr Frank Matsaert said that ensuring women participation at all levels of trade and supporting pragmatic interventions that resolve women unique challenges can only be done if the private and public sector build partnerships.
“This is pivotal to East Africa’s economic transformation. It is crucial to ensure that all its citizens, especially women, are involved in trade and other economic activities” said Mr. Matsaert, adding that he hopes the MOU will lead to implementation of transformative projects in Uganda which can be scaled up to other countries. Mr. Matsaert emphasised TMEA’s commitment to ensuring that women integrate more fully into productive, high-paid sectors of the economy.
URA Commissioner of Customs Dickson Kateshumbwa on his part said, “We have partnered with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) in implementing various interventions like the automation of key customs processes and Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System; and to great success. To mention that this new partnership is probably one of the most important we have cultivated to date, because it is about deliberately building the economic capacity of half of Uganda’s population. URA takes women cross border traders in Uganda seriously. Already, we are simplifying the regional trade policies and agreements as well as building working relationships with women traders to foster a better environment.”
Research has shown that if women’s paid employment were raised to the same level as men’s, the per capita income of 15 major economies would rise by 14% by 2020. TMEA’s work across East Africa is driven by this fact, and the realization that trade has no gender. Establishing linkages between trade opportunities and women’s economic empowerment will result to better livelihoods for families and reduced poverty levels.
The signing of the MOU has marked the beginning of vibrant public and private sector partnership specific to empowering women traders.
“Giving women equal opportunity is a moral and economic imperative and rescinding discriminatory laws is an important first step. We hope the Women, Business and the Law data, which is publicly available, will be used to make the much-needed changes to enable women to make the choices that are best for them, their families and their communities,” said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Development Economics.