Gender mainstreaming, employment and youth - ITC

Gender mainstreaming, employment and youth - ITC

Information dated: 2017
SheTrades: unlocking the potential of women in international markets

Improving the performance of women entrepreneurs participating in trade and increasing their numbers can translate into more jobs and drive poverty reduction. Countries that provide more economic opportunities for women are more competitive in the global economy. Furthermore, when women-owned businesses trade, the contribution they make to the economy in terms of wages, jobs and productivity is disproportionately higher than that made by businesses owned by men. Women, including those in the informal sector, are also more likely to use their earnings and increased bargaining power to buy goods and services that improve family welfare, which has the potential to break intergenerational cycles of poverty.

However, women entrepreneurs face many barriers. The recent World Bank report Doing Business (2016) clearly showed that discrimination against women entrepreneurs continues to exist in many countries. ITC non-tariff measure data and SME competitiveness surveys show that women entrepreneurs own and manage only one in five exporting firms. The obstacles preventing women from participating in international value chains include cultural and regulatory barriers, limited access to productive resources, information, networks and credit, and skills mismatch.

To address these issues, ITC launched in September 2015 a global call to action, the SheTrades Initiative (https://shetrades.com/), to connect one million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020. The SheTrades initiative supports economic opportunity for women through seven pillars: championing quality data; promoting fair policies; supporting women’s participation in government procurement as well as in corporate procurement; promoting access to financial services, and supporting women’s ownership rights. The SheTrades Initiative directly addresses the Global Goals and targets by ensuring women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities in economic life, raising the value of the international business they transact and diversifying the markets they access.

ITC’s support to Women in Cross-Border Trade aims at enhancing the business environment in which women traders operate; addressing the barriers affecting small women- owned firms and informal cross-border traders; encouraging a move into the formal sector; while promoting regional integration and reducing poverty.


Mr. Anders Aeroe

 Director, Division of Enterprises and Institutions

Tel: +41 22 730 0644

E-mail: aeroe [at] intracen.org ()

Youth and trade: enabling young entrepreneurs to increase income and employment opportunities and expanding employment opportunities for youth in export value chains

Of the estimated 200 million globally unemployed people in 2014, nearly 40% were between the age of 15 and 24. While entrepreneurship is not a panacea for solving the youth unemployment crisis, helping young people transform their creative ideas into successful business plans by removing the barriers to entrepreneurship helps young people achieve financial independence and leads to direct and indirect job creation and the development of human capital and new skills.

Young entrepreneurs encounter even higher challenges than the average entrepreneur to establish sustainable linkages to markets, utilize new skills and technologies without experience or networks, and to access financial resources and investors without a track record. Only some young people have the right skills, ideas and personality traits to succeed as entrepreneurs. A complementary approach to support youth employment is to include more young people in existing value chains and help these become more internationally competitive.

The ITC Youth and Trade Programme follows a market-led  approach. It works with policymakers, TISIs, and youth-owned SMEs as well as market partners, who can employ young people, buy or invest. The programme intervention is usually framed within a sector-based approach.

ITC facilitates the design of youth and trade roadmaps (YTR). YTRs identify constraints to trade competitiveness, as well as opportunities for the participation of youth in high-potential value chains. A YTR provides youth-centred strategic directions and priorities for trade and the development of SMEs.

At the institutional level, the ITC ‘Trade Accelerator’ model focuses on the internationalization and export growth of youth-owned start-ups by providing a full spectrum of ‘acceleration’ services, including training, coaching/mentoring, institutional support and facilitating access to finance. It creates an ecosystem of institutions, advisers, mentors and impact investors to support youth-owned SMEs with tailored services serving as springboards to access international markets. It also aims to improve the capacity of TISIs to provide services and facilities geared to the needs of youth.

The Youth and Trade Programme trade also proposes youth-centred e-learning modules through the ITC SME Trade Academy, with courses on entrepreneurship, export readiness market analysis, marketing strategy for exports and export business generation, and accessing finance for exports.

ITC is a core member of the Global initiative on decent jobs for youth and has established partnerships with Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI) and Youth Business International (YBI).