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8 Jul 2021 | HKPL

Gendered vulnerabilities in trade

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Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD.

Women traders from four HKH transboundary landscapes face unique challenges that require unique approaches

Gendered vulnerabilities in trade

Women traders in the HKH face many barriers – sociocultural, economic, systemic – and while the COVID-19 pandemic heightened their vulnerabilities, they have also demonstrated resilience through turning to alternative marketing, product diversification, and alternative financing. These resilience options for women entrepreneurs also represent areas for investment to create a more enabling environment for women-led enterprises in the HKH borderlands. These were among the key finding from a study that we conducted in 2020 with CUTS International in the four HKH transboundary landscapes: Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir, Kailash, Kangchenjunga, and Far Eastern Himalaya.

This study identified major external shocks that affect the business activities of women – the seasonal nature of business, extreme events (such as the pandemic) and natural disasters, geopolitical tensions, and poor transportation networks. To assist in overcoming these barriers, the study respondents identified specific needs for capacity building in marketing niche products and local art and handicrafts (through mechanisms such as geographical indications); greater access to finance and technology; and increased focus on product diversification.

Informal cross-border trade presents a sizeable income avenue for women traders but the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in heavy financial losses for them due to the closure of borders and travel restrictions. This exploratory study assisted in identifying the unique challenges faced by women traders and generating clear pathways to address those challenges to create a conducive business environment specifically for women entrepreneurs.

The closure of international borders has adverse financial implications for women and poor and marginalized groups, whose livelihoods depend on cross-border trade, particularly in agricultural and non-timber forest products.
(Paraphrased from ICIMOD 2020, COVID-19 impact and policy responses in the Hindu Kush Himalaya)

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