In the dynamic world of African trade, where aspirations of growth and prosperity are painted on a vibrant canvas, there lurks an ominous spectre – Gender-Based Violence (GBV). This silent adversary creeps into the very fabric of trade, gnawing away at the potential of women entrepreneurs and obstructing the path to inclusivity.
Recent dialogues, spearheaded by TradeMark Africa (TMA) following the culmination of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, echoed a resounding call to action, rallying stakeholders against GBV in trade. Within the bustling corridors of trade, GBV emerges not merely as an obstacle but as an insurmountable impediment, inflicting profound physical, emotional, and financial wounds on women. Survivors grapple not just with the trauma of violence but also with societal stigma, limited access to essential services, and a dire absence of safe havens. The promise of empowerment through trade transmutes into a perilous odyssey veiled in fear and uncertainty for these individuals.
It’s imperative to acknowledge that women entrepreneurs across East Africa serve as the backbone of trade, constituting up to 70% of informal cross-border traders. However, they grapple with disproportionate challenges – from sexual harassment to physical violence impacting their pursuit to g economic opportunities. This issue transcends regional borders, resonating across the African continent and reverberating globally. The World Bank reports that women’s involvement in trade remains hindered, with one in three women facing violence, often intersecting with their trade activities.
These statistics underscore that GBV not only hampers progress but inflicts profound wounds, rendering trade a perilous journey for survivors. This necessitates a societal shift, reshaping norms to cultivate a secure ecosystem for women in trade.
Effective combat against GBV in trade demands collective efforts, from media sensitisation to empowering survivors through community-based responses. Strategic investments, financial and intellectual, are indispensable for driving progress towards the pivotal goal of SDG 5 on gender equality. Embracing digitisation for comprehensive data collection becomes paramount, evidenced by TradeMark Africa’s collaborative efforts across multiple levels—global, continental, regional, and local.
Additionally, empowering women traders with information access, advocating for trade rights, and prioritising mental health discussions in GBV forums are pivotal milestones toward forging a violence-free trading environment. Moreso, strengthening collaborations, focusing on prevention, and addressing systemic challenges are critical keystones in dismantling the shroud of GBV in trade.
At TradeMark Africa, we are proud to forge strategic partnerships and collaborations across various levels to combat GBV in trade. Our 2023 Strategy 3, “Building Sustainable and Inclusive Trade for Africa,” emphasises the correlation between women’s trade activities and vulnerability to intimate partner violence. The panoramic view of this strategy, anchored on resilience and inclusive trade pillar, champions support for women and youth, fostering cross-border cooperatives, facilitating access to information and services, and advocating for inclusive trade reforms.
A broader continental perspective acknowledges the immense promise of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) but necessitates addressing Violence Against Women within trade spaces. Designating GBV as a national, regional, and continental disaster can spur crucial actions for change, countering emerging challenges like online abuse and incidents linked to transportation services.
As the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence conclude, a decisive imperative emerges for UN Women, governments, private sectors, policymakers, special interest groups, and development sector to prioritise the voices of women, girls, and marginalised groups within trade frameworks. An inclusive execution strategy, empowering women to craft and implement responses to GBV in trade, ensures their equitable participation and influence on outcomes.
In this collective pursuit of a violence-free trading sphere, let us heed the resounding calls for change. It’s not merely the future of trade in question; it’s the dignity, safety, and potential of every woman venturing into commerce.
In conclusion, fostering an inclusive and robust trade ecosystem necessitates a unified and strategic commitment from all stakeholders. TradeMark Africa’s initiatives exemplify a transformative framework—a paradigm wherein trade serves as a catalyst for profound societal change. These efforts empower women engaged in trade to excel with resilience, resulting in the enrichment of local communities and nations on a comprehensive scale. The dynamic mosaic of inclusive trade thrives when each constituent, irrespective of gender, actively contributes to a narrative centred on empowerment and stability. While the designated 16-day campaign against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) may have formally concluded, the imperative dialogue surrounding this issue remains ongoing. The urgent call for transformation reverberates louder than ever, demanding immediate action.
Gloria Atuheirwe is TradeMark Africa Director for Gender Inclusion & Women in Trade.