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She might be left behind if we focus on inclusivity only

Along with the expansion of trade activities, trade is increasingly perceived as leaving too many individuals and communities behind, making a strong case for reformulating trade policies and practices to be inclusive. Although the importance of having this high-end goal of making trade inclusive is undeniable, one has to ask what does that mean in a practical sense? When we say that something, in this case, trade, is inclusive, what does this mean and how do we measure it?  

Although an “inclusive trade” approach includes in its ambit gender equality, it also encompasses many other dimensions, such as geographic inclusion, inclusion based on social grouping (race, ethnicity, person with disability), inclusion based on socio-economic class, etc. Moreover, it is often interpreted as focusing on distribution of gains from trade or trade policy changes. On the other hand, a gender sensitive response is about looking at the differentiated impact that a policy, strategy, programme, action may have on men and women. It goes beyond just developing programmes targeted at women, and looks at how might a policy be designed so that it addresses the very specific challenges that women face in participating in international trade through the different roles they play (in contrast to men) and ensure gender equality.

To further elaborate on the difference between inclusiveness and gender mainstreaming, one can look at how inclusiveness could be measured. The Annual Inclusiveness Index created by the Other & Belonging Institute at UC Berkley measures global inclusion and marginality. In order to do so, it looks at six domains: out-group violence, political representation, income inequality, antidiscrimination laws, rates of incarceration, and immigration or asylum policies. For each domain it selects indicators in order to measure how different demographic subgroups (such as: gender, LGBTQ populations, racial, and ethnic subgroups, etc) fare. In looking at trade inclusivity the same way, we might for instance be able to define inclusiveness as a composite index of indicators such as gender equality, racial and ethnic equality, socio-economic equality, and so on. Based on these, if trade policy, for instance was formulated to be inclusive of race and ethnicity, as well as socio-economic status, but affected gender equality negatively, the inclusiveness index would still move in a positive direction, not specifically pointing out the negative impact on gender equality. Inclusivity, thus is not a perfect reflection of a trade policies effect on the inclusion of different subgroups, including gender.  

An example is provided by an ESCAP study about trade facilitation policies affecting different subgroups differently. Although they can generally be expected to have a positive effect on the inclusiveness of trade by making it easier for small traders and firms to participate, in reality due to their confinement to a certain geographical or sectoral area, which might be inaccessible to women, they may not be beneficial for women.

Therefore, when looking at inclusive trade policies, it becomes critical to systematically focus on each domain of this broad inclusive umbrella and address the set of distinct challenges each faces. Inclusivity cannot truly reflect the impact of trade reforms on separate communities, making it necessary to compliment improvements in this broad spectrum with more focused work for each domain. For the domain of gender equality in trade then, a detailed look into the different channels through which trade affects women in their different roles, compared to men, and the gains and challenges arising for women from trade needs to be undertaken. Policy reforms need to be specifically addressing challenges to women and not just challenges to a broader spectrum of inclusivity of which women might be an implicit aspect.


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