Public Private Dialogue on Women in the Digital Economy and International Trade

The Commonwealth Secretariat and the UNCTAD International Trade Centre (ITC) partnered with the Government of Malaysia to host a public-private dialogue on “Women in the Digital Economy and International Trade” on 29-30 January 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pakistan WE-NET was invited to participate in the public private dialogue, as the only representative from Pakistan; to provide suggestions and recommendations with regards to the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda as well as SheTrades Outlook.

The dialogue took place as a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, a mandate issued by Heads at CHOGM 2018, and the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades in the Commonwealth, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom as an outcome of commitments made at CHOGM.

Over 500 delegates, including trade officials, businesswomen and grassroots women associations, from 22 Commonwealth countries launched the work of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. Leaders adopted the Agenda at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to boost trade and investment among the 53-member bloc. The Agenda consists of five clusters which are physical, digital, regulatory, business-to-business and supply side. Inadequate access to financing, markets and technology are among the hurdles that prevent women from breaking into global trade, which the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda expects to tackle.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, opened the conference and launched the Agenda.She said: “The Connectivity Agenda is the first trade and investment-related agenda ever adopted by the Commonwealth with the aim to generate inclusive and participative economic growth.”

The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated the Commonwealth’s commitment to making trade and investment more inclusive by encouraging women in business and breaking down gender-based barriers in all economic sectors. ITC’s SheTrades Initiative also presented its SheTrades Outlook policy tool and opened the discussion for feedback to better design and operationalize the tool as well as share good practices in policies to empower women in international trade.

Following the launch, Pakistan WE-NET was among the 40 delegates who discussed each cluster of the Agenda with a focus on increasing women’s share in global trade and promoting digital inclusion. Delegates identified challenges faced by women in trade and how the Agenda can address those through gender-responsive policies, partnerships and by sharing good practices.

The Commonwealth will present the findings of the 2-day conference at the next cluster meeting on digital and physical connectivity in South Africa. The findings will guide interventions to change policies and practices, increasing women’s access to finance and global value chains


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