Including women in cross border trade

With various activities happening within the East African region, facilitated by better trading policies, the member countries are on a growth trend. We spoke to Gloria Atuheirwe, Senior Programme Manager, Business Competitiveness at TradeMark East Africa to discuss how they are helping women be part of EAC economic growth

Tell us about Trademark EA’s ‘’Make it Happen for Women in Tradeinitiative launched last week

Generally, volumes of informal cross-border trade, and the conditions experienced go largely undocumented meaning their contribution to trade expansion is unrecorded and ‘invisible’ to policy makers. As a result, mainstream trade policies and institutions tend to neglect the women cross border traders. Women traders face various challenges including harassment by border officials, limited knowledge of trade procedures and weak representation. As a result, many rely on informal routes to get goods across borders, further exposing themselves to exploitation and business failure. TMEA, therefore, works with partners across the EAC and South Sudan to address some of these challenges with the objective of increasing trade and competitiveness and improving the livelihoods of these women.

The East Africa integration still seems so technical for the common mwananchi. How has TradeMark EA simplified this for the ordinary woman?

TMEA has helped simplify these provisions through simplification of the actual documents and making easy-to read brochures, posters or fliers with information that is critical for the women traders to understand in order to trade effectively. We have also translated these simplified documents into the languages that these women can understand e.g. Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda. TMEA has also established resource centres at key border crossings including Katuna, Malaba and Mutukula where the traders can receive information or get assistance in filling out the required documentation to cross the border.

How will your new initiative make practical the policies around women empowerment?

The targeted beneficiaries constitute of women entrepreneurs, exporters, urban traders, manufacturers and cross border traders. The new program will directly target 25,000 women with initial funding of Sh459m ($4.5m) from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We hope to ensure the women traders are represented in the policy discussions so that they can influence their formulation. These partners are recognised by national and district authorities as being representative of the interests of the women traders and so are continually engaged in the policy discourse in their respective countries or jurisdictions. We will have a Simplified Trade Regime which that directly benefits small scale traders.

How many women are you targeting in this initiative?

We are targeting at least 25,000 women traders from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Given the vast number of women traders in the region, some of the strategies applied include training of the women cross border associations leaders who then in turn train their members.

What measures has the TradeMark EA put in place to ensure that the role of women in cross border trade remains?

We will work with partners who are credible and have the capacity to implement the projects. We will also design monitoring tools together with the partners  to continually gather data from the women traders to assess progress this include documentation of all trainings, field visits, partner meetings. TMEA will conduct regular reviews and conducting an independent evaluation at the end of the programme.

Who are some of your partners in this initiative?

Some of the partners include East and Sub-Saharan Africa Initiative for the Advancement of Women), Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association (UWEAL), JoyfulWomen in Kenya and ProFemme in Rwanda


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