Position Statement from the Women Cross Border Traders Forum on Mainstreaming Gender in the SADC Regional Trade Policy and the Tripartite Free Trade Area Policy Framework

Johannesburg, 11th July, 2013

We, the Women representatives of Informal Cross Border Trader’s Associations (ICBTs) drawn from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe met in Johannesburg, South Africa for the Women Cross Border Traders Forum on Mainstreaming Gender in the SADC Regional Trade Policy and the Tripartite Free Trade Area Policy Framework (TFTA) from 10th – 11th July, 2013.

We engaged on critical issues affecting women in informal cross border trade in the Southern Africa Development Community Free Trade Area (SADC FTA) and looked at the extent of gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the SADC trade regime. The dialogue provided a platform for increased networking, coordination and collaboration among women cross border traders in order to single out key challenges that are faced in transacting trade in the SADC region. This was done in order to influence the processes, negotiations and implementation of proposals that can address the opportunities and challenges when the TFTA is established.

We reviewed what must be done in order to promote and empower women in ICBT in the SADC region and the proposed TFTA.

We take cognizance of the positive initiatives taken by SADC to empower women and address challenges that are peculiar to women through the conclusion of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, the establishment of the SADC Gender Unit and the development of the SADC Gender Strategy. However, a gap still remains in the implementation aspect of gender mainstreaming in national programs where the plight of women in informal cross border trade remains unaddressed.

Concerned with the limited appreciation of the role that women in ICBT play in the SADC economies and recognizing that the TFTA presents a unique opportunity for the ICBTs, we identified the following key challenges:

  1. Lack of information on the existing legal documents that apply in the SADC FTA like the SADC Protocol on Trade, and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development;
  2. Limited implementation of trade facilitation measures under the SADC Protocol on Trade by member States which hampers the progress of intra-regional trade in SADC;
  3. Low security levels at border posts where women are harassed during transit and high levels of corruption by officials at border posts;
  4. The existence of language barriers which make trading across borders difficult because traders are unable to understand legal requirements of trading in other SADC member States;
  5. Lack of market infrastructure (e.g the COMESA market in Lusaka, Zambia) in which cross border traders can operate from within the SADC member States;
  6. Non-recognition of the role of women in ICBT and lack of policies at national level that address their challenges;
  7. Failure by women in ICBTs to bring their challenges to the attention of government officials who are responsible for formulation of policies;
  8. Women in ICBT associations are not visible where they exist and where they do not, they face challenges in gaining recognition because the registration process of their associations is complicated;
  9. SADC has not adopted a Simplified Trade Regime (STR) which makes cross border trade less complicated as evidenced by the effectiveness of the COMESA STR; and
  10. Difficulty in movement of cross border traders and their goods in the SADC region which is worsened by complicated customs and immigration requirements.

The key challenges identified require women in ICBT to collaborate in addressing their needs and we require support from our respective Governments. We recognise that we have a role to play in addressing our challenges and therefore commit to: -

  1. Empower the leadership of existing ICBT Associations with the requisite knowledge of the legal regime regulating Trade in SADC and enhance ICBT Associations’ knowledge base and expertise on customs procedures and documentation, Tariff classification, Rules of Origin, STR, Technical Barriers To Trade like Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, security and cross cutting Issues in the SADC FTA.
  2. Strengthen the role and visibility of women in ICBT in SADC by linking the existing Cross border Associations and advocating for their formation where they do not exist with the ultimate goal of having a regional network under Southern Africa Cross-Border Trade Association (SACBTA) as an umbrella organization that will be the voice of women ICBTs in the region.
  3. Undertake activities that will promote awareness-raising on the state of the SADC FTA, TFTA and the proposed roadmap through the establishment of a newsletter under SACBTA.
  4. Take a proactive role through the strengthened Associations and engage governments in dialogue in order to address the identified challenges.
  5. Engage member States to consider including the STR in the TFTA. Taking into account that some of the challenges faced require government intervention, we call on the SADC member States to –
    1. Facilitate information dissemination and capacity building of stakeholders in trade on the legal regime regulating SADC FTA and the proposed TFTA;
    2. Strengthen the existing structures within SADC like the Gender Unit to effectively address the challenges faced by women traders.
    3. Implement trade facilitation measures like the following –
      • simplification of customs documentation and translation of these documents into national languages;
      • establish Trade Information Desks where they are non-existent and or strengthen the existing ones at border posts .
      • improvement of legal regimes that will enable married women to get access to credit facilities;
      • creation of CBT market infrastructures at national level; and
      • enhance safety and security measures for women at border posts.
    4. Simplify the process of registration of associations in order to enable ICBTs to register their Associations.
    5. Implement the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
    6. Ensure that the SADC Protocol on the free movement of persons comes into force and is implemented at national level.
    7. Adopt the STR in SADC and in the TFTA.
    8. Mainstream gender in the TFTA.

Having identified the key challenges faced by women in ICBT and coming up with recommendations on how these challenges can be addressed, we resolve to bring this position statement to the attention of the SADC member States.

Taking cognizance of the passion that the incoming chairperson has for empowering women and enhancing their roles in society, we resolve to engage in dialogue with Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda to make her aware of the issues identified as a way of forming a partnership in the resolution of these issues in the SADC region.

In conclusion, we will tirelessly work towards the establishment of an enabling environment for smooth cross border trade and guaranteed sustainable livelihoods and poverty eradication for our people.

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