Wednesday, Nov 05, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
This is important, they say, because women represent a large proportion of the workforce, especially in developing countries.Besides, the negative effects of trade liberalisation are believed to be the strongest in informal sectors such as textiles, garments, handicrafts, marine products and spices as well as in subsistence farming where women tend to be predominant.
Speaking on these issues at a symposium on "Trade, Globalisation and Gender", activists suggested that trade liberalisation in gender sensitive products (GSPs) should address non-trade barriers, including trade defence measures such as anti-dumping, subsidies and safeguard actions. Special dispensations such as a "peace clause" against trade defence measures in textiles and clothing following the phase-out of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) would be of great benefit, they argued.Safety valves by way of special safeguard mechanisms against import surges on GSPs should also be built in with a view to ensuring greater certainty in the workplace for women, they said. In fact, it was felt that the argument in favour of GSPs being given special dispensation is very similar to that made out in the case of environmental goods and services where environment is seen as a public good. At the same time, they noted that expansion of trade has the potential to create new income and employment opportunities, especially for women.
The two-day symposium has been organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD) and the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in association with the Commerce Ministry.The Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, S.B. Mookherjee, released a book at the inaugural function last night on "Trade and Gender: Evidence from South Asia" edited by the Coordinator, UNCTAD India programme, Veena Jha. An official release says the book focuses on three broad issues, key issues in WTO negotiations that may have gender implications, exploring opportunities for employment and income generation for women from WTO agreements and examining and mitigating the effects of WTO rules on women in South Asian countries.
Among the representatives of women's groups who addressed the seminar from neighbouring countries included Farida Akhtar of Bangladesh (UBINIG), Zahra Hayat of Pakistan (Aurat Foundation) Hirmani Ghimire and Mona Shreshtha Adhikari of Nepal (SAWTEE) and Anoma Ariyawardana of Sri Lanka (CENWOR).
Participants from this country included Rehana Jhabvala of SEWA, Indirani Mazumdar from the Centre for Women's Development Studies, Ranjana Kumari of the Council for Social Research (CSR) and Poornima Advani, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, as well as Chandni Joshi of UNIFEM and senior officials from the Commerce Ministry.
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