Key elements of the gender strategy

The strategy is organized around the following key elements: Implementing Framework, Capacity and Coordination; Business Development and Branding; Training – Awareness and Promotion; Information Dissemination; Communication; Socio-Economic Research; and Stakeholder engagement. Under each of these elements, the strategy distinguishes between activities that can be done in the short term (1-2 years) and those that would require more time (2 years plus) . Further, the strategy delineates individuals who can implement certain activities while highlighting relevant gender equality indicators as well as noting activities for which no extra budget may be required. Below, is a discussion of each of these followed by a presentation of the same in a matrix format.

7.1       Implementing Framework, Capacity, and Coordination

Like most interventions aimed at making positive contribution to lives of individuals and their communities, a gender strategy has to be fully supported by ensuring a conducive environment in which the gender activities are to be implemented.

Coordination: It is important to establish an institutional arrangement to coordinating and directing the implementation of the gender strategy including identifying gender focal points or gender committees or units within country offices.

Capacity: Success will largely depend on the level of gender knowledge, skills, sensitivity, and commitment among staff, partners, and leadership. Some training may be required to build and strengthen gender knowledge and skills among staff – especially on the application of gender concepts and ideals in development practice.

Policy terrain: All SACBTA countries have national and sector level policies. What is often weak is the ability for individual organizations to interpret those policies and to tailor them to individual goals and circumstances.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Strong systems of monitoring and evaluation are necessary for tracking progress on gender equality outputs and outcomes.

Resources: Finally, human and financial resources need to be explicitly committed to gender responsive program development and implementation. It is important to recognize that it is not enough to provide and centralize resources for the gender focal point or the gender expert in a team. Rather, as shown below, gender cuts across almost all SACBTA activities which suggests that informed gender budgeting is crucial for success. It is equally important to recognize that some gender relevant activities require no additional resources. For instance, ensuring equal opportunities for men and women’s access to and participation in training and information sharing events may require a change of mindset rather than a bigger budget.

7.2    Business Development and Branding

Establishment of strong networks and associations of cross border traders at country level as well as recognizable brands will partly drive the growth of the cross border industry. It is therefore important to foster equal and effective participation of women, men, young people and other vulnerable groups in the associations and in the creation of recognizable brands. Finally, like any other business, cross border trade requires financial investments. Therefore, a long term gender equality strategy should include mapping sources of business finance for women and men in cross border trade.

7.1    Training – Awareness and Promotion

Cross border trade comes with strong training components for people involved to know the modalities of operating in this industry. For gender, what is key is to provide equal opportunity for women and men to effectively participate in learning opportunities. The history of development practices reminds us that women’s participation as well as that of other vulnerable groups does not happen effortlessly. Many cultural factors constrain the participation of women including, but not limited to (i) time constraints due to the triple roles in economic, caring and community commitments (ii) limited mobility and resources to facilitate (iii) relatively higher need for personal safety (iv) views and attitudes on women as carers and not active participants in their own and their families’ economic activities (v) limited decision making power &

(vi) attitudes and cultural norms on asset ownership. In order to overcome some of these culturally based constraints, SACBTA needs to carefully and deliberately target women in training needs assessments, training, and in exchange visits. Leadership training for women is one key area of focus. Adequate time and resources need to be committed to developing equitable and participatory selection processes at local level – and ensuring that women also have a voice in choosing whom, among them, should attend trainings. While women’s groups and women’s forums may be a good entry point into communities, it is important to recognize that not all women belong to groups. In fact, groups are inherently a locus for inclusion and exclusion of certain types of women. Therefore, the idea is not only to foster equity between men and women, but also, to nurture the culture of equity among women themselves. Moreover, targeting women’s groups if taken as the only approach, potentially excludes men and that is equally problematic.

Beyond counting numbers of women, what is crucial is to create a conducive environment for women to effectively engage. This may involve locating trainings nearer to women, convening trainings in time frames that allow women to get back home safely and in time to undertake their other responsibilities, and ensuring women’s safety. Even more crucial is the commitment to ensure effective participation of women during training. This involves providing supplementary support – such as childcare – to enable nursing mothers to effectively engage while resisting the tendency to appoint some women to cook and provide meals for training participants – while training is underway.

Finally, lasting change will largely be driven by addressing cultural norms that dictate the status of women in homes and communities. One entry point for SACBTA is to include gender in community dialogues with men for the promotion of a ‘family-centered’ knowledge dissemination approach. SACBTA should work on the art of documenting progress by collecting sex- disaggregated data on participants – and also documenting processes taken to facilitate effective participation of women.

7.4          Information Dissemination

Cross border trade needs a lot of awareness creation. Similar to what is described above, providing equal opportunity to information and resources determines patterns of participation. Therefore, there is need to develop tools for effectively targeting women and men with information. Part of this requires carefully mapping out pathways through which women and men access information and exploiting those for awareness creation. Also, it may partly require tailoring activities to foster effective participation of women. In some contexts, group asset ownership has worked. It is imperative to facilitate not only the entry of men, women and other vulnerable groups into these group arrangements, but also, their participation in leadership positions. Relatedly, SACBTA has an opportunity to deliberately target men and increase their visibility as champions for gender equality in cross border trade. Additionally, SACBTA has an opportunity to create synergies and partnerships with other government ministries, for instance the Ministries of Women Affairs or Gender, who often have local level gender officers. The latter may be more knowledgeable on gender issues in the local area and could provide technical guidance. This is certainly true for Zimbabwe but may also be true in other SACBTA affiliates. Finally, as a long term strategy, SACBTA should participate in local, regional, and international conferences to widely share perspectives and best practices on gender and cross border trade. Women’s forums should be held at district, provincial, national and regional levels for the same reasons.

 

7.1          Communication

Communication is an indispensable tool for fostering awareness on issues in cross border trade as well as in celebrating success and best practices. As with all other activities such as training, and dissemination, we need to implement a communication strategy that adheres to the principles of equity. First, development of communication approaches and materials should be informed by an awareness of how best to reach certain social groups such as women and youth. Therefore, aspects such as the language, symbols, images, medium of communication, timing etc become imperative. SACBTA should develop clothing materials for promotional purposes. What if women were engaged in selecting promotional items? Would they choose caps and T-shirts? While this may appear trivial to many, it is an important element of awareness creation. If we recognize women as an important segment of cross border trade, we could enhance awareness creation by adopting and sharing materials and artifacts that have utility value for women. Moreover, as a long term strategy, the communication team can include gender in awareness campaigns on cross border trade while strengthening local capacity for reporting on the same.

 

7.2          Socio-Economic Research

Socio-economic research is incredibly valuable for building the evidence base for cross border trade, including gender. A strategy that builds on and strengthens the way we do generate socio-economic evidence while strengthening the capacity for gender research is recommended. The core idea is to generate evidence that reflects the lived realities of both women and male cross border traders in the various contexts. It is about moving beyond documenting ‘women’s experiences’ towards allowing women to openly share their views – just like men – on their preferences, challenges, and opportunities.

First, with respect to the way socio-economic research is carried out, the key element is to ask the right questions. For instance, gender is about power in the home, community, and the market place. Therefore, it is important to have the culture and commitment to investigate themes around access to, ownership, and control over resources; labor and time use; leadership and effective participation in activities and processes– and their implications on wellbeing. Some of these aspects may lend themselves to quantitative inquiry, but also, it takes discernment to distinguish those which are best addressed through qualitative approaches.

 

It is often helpful to include a gender expert in the design and implementation of socio-economic studies. In addition, it is imperative for research teams to adopt good practices for data collection including, but not limited to recruiting and selecting balanced data collection teams, providing space especially for women in male headed households to share their opinions and experiences with cross border trade issues. Relatedly, socio-economic research has potential to generate benchmarks against which progress on gender can be tracked therefore it is crucial to collect, analyze, and present sex-disaggregated data.

Second, a long term strategy for building a strong evidence base for gender in cross border trade should include a capacity building component. As noted during the consultative workshop, there is need for more research on issues of gender in cross border trade. This requires a systematic effort to develop a research agenda and implement it with local academics and gender specialists – including training graduate students.

7.1       Stakeholder Engagement

Among other activities, SACBTA seeks to engage stakeholders including policy makers in dialogues on cross border trade. While some aspects such as the reduction of taxes may seem to be gender neutral, high taxes lead female cross border traders to use unorthodox means to induce a favourable consideration in the calculation of taxes due on their goods, therefore it is important to raise awareness among stakeholders and policy makers of the potential benefits, especially for women, of implementation of certain protocols and conventions where they are ratified, recognition of organized trade, availability of integrated health services at border posts, gender sensitive infrastructure at border posts and road ports.

8.   Conclusion

This strategy should be taken as a living document that can and should be adjusted as circumstances shift. While it provides overall guidelines, individuals should adapt the recommendations to suit their contextual circumstances. Ultimately, the strategy is as good as its level of implementation. If we can all sleep easy, knowing that we have done the best we could to provide equal opportunities for women and men in the communities we work, we would have taken a giant step towards fostering gender equality in cross border trade.

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Please let us know if you have a question, want to leave a comment, or would like further information about Southern African Cross Border Traders Association (SACBTA)

Special acknowledgement and appreciation goes also to the cross border traders for their invaluable time and critical views in providing insights during the consultative processes. SACBTA extends its appreciation and gratitude to the many individuals who provided technical review and offered suggestions and contributions to the development of this strategy.

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SACBTA President
SACBTA President, Sudecar Novera

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