History of the International Gender and Trade Network

Global Women's Project | Mon, Feb 11, 2002

By Maria Riley, O.P.
"The history, goals and foci of the IGTN."
The International Gender and Trade Network is made up of seven regional networks (Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Pacific) of women involved in research, advocacy and economic literacy around issues of trade and development.

The network was established following a Strategic Planning Seminar on Gender and Trade, held in Grenada, December 1999. The Seminar outlined a plan to increase the engagement of the Global Women's Movement in the discourse and negotiations on regional and global trade and investment agreements. The forty-eight participants come from Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Pacific. The meeting followed in the wake of the collapse of the Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. The impact of that meeting and the critical questions of trade and development created a sense of urgency around the agenda.

The outcomes of the meeting identified critical research needs and goals, a plan for developing regional networks building toward an international network on gender and trade, and an outline for developing trade literacy networks as tools for popular education and mobilization.

A steering committee with regional representation, a research coordinator and a trade literacy coordinator was named. It was also agreed that the Center of Concern would act as the Secretariat in the formative stages of the International Gender and Trade network.

Grenada Seminar Report

Both the timing and the setting of the Women's Strategic Planning Seminar on Gender and Trade, co-sponsored by the Center of Concern's Global Women's Project and DAWN Caribbean, could not have been more ideal. The seminar took place the week following the collapse of WTO Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle. Its setting was the beautiful island of Grenada, a clear example of the impact of WTO rules on small island economies. It also carries the continuing legacy of colonialism as do so many countries of the global South. In Grenada, the participants in the seminar witnessed both realities.

The seminar gathered 48 gender activists representing Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin American, North America and the Pacific. Because regional balance was a priority, the seminar mirrored the diversity in our world. It brought together feminist economists, activists and advocates on trade issues and experts in economic literacy training. Its purpose was to plan how to engage the Global Women's Movement more effectively in the discourse and negotiations on trade and investment.

The participants addressed three questions:

1.What research do women need in order to understand the impact of new trade and investment regimes on women, families and communities
2.What advocacy structures and strategies are needed to engage women and to ensure that trade and investment agreements are equitable and foster social development
3.What educational processes and programs are needed to enable people, particularly women, to become knowledgeable and engaged in trade and investment discussions?

During the meeting the participants engaged in these discussions from various points of view - local, regional and global. Two dimensions were clearly evident. The participants were concerned about identifying trade's impact on women. They also were identifying a women's agenda relative to trade and investment that will foster greater economic justice and security for women, families and communities.

The meeting focused on planning because the gender dimension of trade is a new issue not only for women, but also for trade economists who consider trade ""gender neutral.""

The work of feminist economists, advocates and economic literacy experts on structural adjustment for the past 20 years has clearly established that all macroeconomic issues have a gender impact. The challenge today is to develop that foundational work and direct it toward trade and investment.

The outcomes of the seminar included the establishment of a steering committee with representatives from all the regions as well as a research representative and a economic literacy expert. The responsibility of the steering strategic directions of the seminar:

1.The development of regional gender and trade networks that will connect as a global network of communication and strategy.
2.The identification and support of a research agenda that enhances the advocacy and literacy needs of the regional and global networks
3.The support of a network of literacy trainers across the regions who will develop materials and strategies for economic/trade literacy from a gender perspective. Several regional groups began to plan their networks during the seminar.

The work ahead is enormous, but the directions have been set. The steering committee met in May of 2000 to put the plan in motion. Currently the Gender and Trade Network Secretariat is located at the Center of Concern in Washington, D.C. and will move to the global South in the future.

December 2000
Maria Riley, OP