Women are the key in achieving the sustainable development goals

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Women Vendor Forum and Exhibition in istanbul february 2017

It was highly inspirational to meet over 400 enthusiastic and dedicated women entrepreneurs from over 50 countries in the SheTrades initiative’s Women Vendor Exhibition Forum 2017 in Istanbul in February - and they are not alone; since the launch in 2015 by International Trade Centre; connecting 1 million women to the market by 2020, the number to day is already 800 000!

«We have a collective responsibility to ensure a sustainable growth and we need to include the women to achieve it», Arancha Gonzaléz, Executive Director ITC opening speech WVEF 2017.

The trade and service sector is essential

There has been a political consensus that trade is a prerequisite for sustainable global growth. The trade and service sector is a major private sector employer, in Norway it's the largest one. According to the White Paper "Working Together" 9 out 10 new jobs in developing countries will be in the private sector. Through the global SDGs are environment and climate an important part of the solution to the challenges we face within energy, global growth and industrialization. The trade and service sector will be an imperative part of the solution through the many opportunities within the circular economy and the fourth industrial revolution.

Access to financial services and development of private sector

There are 2 billion unbanked people in the world today according to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. Most of the unbanked live in developing countries, and in some more than 95% of adults have no account at a formal financial institution. Among adults living below the US$ 2 a-day-poverty line, women are 28% less likely than men to have a formal financial account. A World Bank Group study suggests there are between 365 and 445 million micro, small and medium (MSME) enterprises in emerging markets. While these enterprises are the backbone of many local societies, most of them are in the informal sector. There will be great benefits with increased competence and access to financial services moving the private sector from informal to formal sector and scaling it up.

The focus on women

The strong commitment on global health and education for girls and women is imperative. So is the work on political influence, however, there is a need to include the very important aspect; private sector development and access to financial independence through work. Norway has a long history of dedicated policy for achieving gender equality in the work life; this should be duplicated in development policies. Paid work will be an important part of transforming from the notion that women are an economic burden to an equal contributor. In addition, women's participation in the work life will be part of ensuring the global sustainable growth and welfare needed.

Agenda 2030 – A strategy to achieve the UN SDGs

The millennium goals showed us that if we have specific common goals, political will and funds, we can solve the great challenges. The achievement of several of the MDGs have given many positive effects, however, the economic development has at the same time given several developing countries a rapid urbanization, with challenges of negative environmental development and an increased inequality. The forecast report Future of Spaceship Earth assesses the probability for achieving the 17 SDGs, and for goal #10; Less Inequality the report shows no probability of achievement in any of the regions of the world.

Trade and investment will be an important part of the solution to

achieve the sustainable development goals, hence, also a central part of the action plan of development policy. It was very positive to hear Mr Jon Lomøy, CEO of Norad specify the value-chain as a new important area for future development work during the Norwegian Private Sector Development Conference last week. These are labour intensive sectors with a high share of women employment, where there are great opportunities to scale up with access to the formal financial market and may create millions of needed jobs.

Virke has been working with women entrepreneurs in East Africa since 2009, and we have seen first-hand how women share and give back to their peers and societies. We believe the only way to create the jobs needed and achieve the SDGs is through inclusion of women and trade in all action plans of private sector development. We trust the Norwegian government along with their peers will follow through for women in their budgets and strategies.

More about SheTrades HERE.