This month, the WEESA Community of Practice explores the nexus between trade and women’s economic empowerment. An increase in trade or a country’s deeper integration in international value chains can create significant economic opportunities for women. An example is Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector, which employs a large number of women workers and has helped the country buck the regional trend of stagnating or declining female labor force participation. However, as our curated resource package this month shows, trade is no panacea, especially in environments with strong social norms around women’s and men’s roles in society, and its impacts can vary across groups of women.
From Jobs to Careers: Apparel Exports and Career Paths for Women in Developing Countries
This report explores whether the apparel industry – which is the most female-intensive and globally engaged manufacturing industry – can improve women’s labor market outcomes. The report argues that countries should take advantage of the apparel industry as a launching platform to overcome the fixed cost of introducing more women into the labor market. Readmore
Regional Integration in South Asia: Implications for Green Growth, Female Labor Force Participation, and the Gender Wage Gap
The study measures the impact of trade liberalization on gender-specific employment and wages in South Asia. The results indicate that a free trade agreement signed by all countries is likely to be more beneficial compared with only some countries signing the agreement. Women's employment grows faster than men's employment, as most of the sectors that benefit due to these free trade agreements are women-intensive. Read more
Manufacturing growth and the lives of Bangladeshi women
This paper studies the effects of explosive growth in the Bangladeshi ready-made garments industry on the lives of Bangladeshi women. Girls exposed to the garment sector delay marriage and childbirth. Read more
Women’s Worth: Trade, Female Income, and Fertility in India
This paper shows that trade policy can have significant intergenerational distributional effects across gender and social strata by comparing women and births in rural Indian districts differentially exposed to the 1991 trade reform. For lower (higher) socioeconomic status women, the tariff cuts increased (decreased) fertility and decreased (increased) the sex ratio at birth and relative survival for girls in districts more exposed to tariff cuts relative to the national trend. Relative female income increased (decreased) for lower castes (upper castes) in districts experiencing a larger loss of protection. Read more
How to Empower Women to Take Advantage of the Opportunities of Trade
Poor labor force participation rates for women have been the dominant trend across South Asia. Where women do work, they have been constrained to low-skilled or unskilled labor within the informal sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economic growth across South Asia, highlighting the urgent need to foster growth, especially when the indicators for women’s employment, income, and wealth have suffered. Read more
Past Events: From Safety to Empowerment: Pathways for Improved Mobility for Women in South Asia
Restricted mobility is a key hurdle - reducing women’s freedom to invest in human capital and to access quality jobs. For women, it is often about preventing sexual harassment in public transport and public spaces. Alarming percentages of women and girls report being sexually harassed in public spaces and public transport in South Asia. In this event, leading practitioners discussed the importance of enhancing safer mobility and best practices to improve safety for women and girls in South Asia. View the recording
Roundtable Discussion: Towards Safer Migration: Countering Human Trafficking in an Integrated South Asia
Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry globally and a leading human rights challenge that disproportionally affects women and youth. A significant problem across South Asia, typical practices of human traffickers include exploiting individuals who are seeking to migrate to neighboring countries looking for economic opportunities. This discussion provided important insights into how to mitigate risk factors for human trafficking and promote safe migration across South Asia. View recording
WEESA is a knowledge community designed with the goal of strengthening the linkages between evidence and action by curating evidence on “what works,” amplifying local voices and knowledge and enhancing local capacity on women’s economic empowerment in the region through small grants for local organizations and researchers.
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