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EDD18 - Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development

Posted on: July 05, 2018


The 12th edition of the European Development Days (EDD 2018) took place in Brussels at Tour & Taxi on 5-6 June 2018 under the theme of “Women and girls at the forefront of sustainable development: Protect, Empower, Invest”. The EU-ACP TradeCom II Programme, EU-ACP Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), and the ACP Secretariat jointly organised two debates on pressing development issues in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (the ACP Group).


The session “Investing in ACP Women’s Graduation from the Informal Economy - Supporting Women Entrepreneurs to Effectively Push Back the Frontiers of Poverty, Informal Economy, Unemployment, Inclusiveness through EPAs” moderated by Axel Pougin de la Maissonneuve (Deputy Head of Unit, EU - DG DEVCO) was aimed at showcasing the opportunities for Governments, ACP Institutions and EU to invest  in helping women to move out of the precarious informal economy.
While the ingenuity and dynamism of the informal sector is a real strength, becoming part of the formal economy allows the government to protect and respond to the needs of its citizens better, for example, via social security schemes and to provide better services such as childcare and education. For entrepreneurs and women, in particular, the formal economy opens doors to new trading and financing opportunities.

Partnerships help local producers scale up and access new markets. Likewise, incubators for new agribusiness ideas are being developed in conjunction with private-sector actors to ensure that the ideas that emerge can be funded once they are market-ready.
Government is also a critical partner in securing the access to finance and technology that women entrepreneurs want. Those with a real commitment to consultation will increase the likelihood of delivering the right infrastructure and ancillary support services that are needed to help businesses thrive, especially those that are women-led.

Mobility remains a problematic issue for women working in agriculture in ACP counties and regions. Participants heard from some great decentralization initiatives that are helping women who want to improve their situation and grow their businesses. Through partnerships, mobile training facilities have been developed. This allows women to train and get the necessary approvals, such as licensing, bank, tax and standards, from the various licensing agencies without having to travel to the capital city.
Empowerment results from giving women access to training, new financing possibilities and to better services. Other capacity building initiatives to help inspire women to try and move their business up the value chain included a CEO roundtable where women leaders share their lessons learned with young aspiring rural women entrepreneurs.

In his opening statement, the Secretary-General of ACP Group, Dr Patrick I. Gomes recalled the importance to invest in women’s Graduation from the Informal Economy for Governments, ACP Institutions and EU;
First, the Governments and institutions in the ACP countries should sharpen their inclusive policies and interventions at all levels including:

  •  Closing the gender gap in education by promoting female education in support of the achievement of demographic dividends; and
  •  Adoption of the “womenomics” policy framework to reinforce and expand the potential of the demographic dividend and the cumulative effects on long-term inclusiveness of economic growth and poverty reduction.

Second, the ACP-EU joint facilities should sharpen their focus and interventions in favour of women and girls. The ACP-EU joint institutions’ coverage include: agriculture, trade, private sector, investment, climate change, education, culture, migration.
Third, the European Union should provide clear leadership in investing in ACP women’s graduation from the informal economy. Through the new trade regime under the EPAs, its development cooperation framework, and its direct support instruments such as the External Investment Plan and its blending instruments, the European Union has a formidable opportunity to excel in its leadership to build a “womenomics” environment in the partner countries—the ACP Group.

Emma Kawawa, Chief Executive Officer of ENTANGO Investments Ltd., a company working with women entrepreneurs in the Cashewnut and Avocados production in Southern part of Tanzania for Local and Export Markets highlighted the need of “capacity building in entrepreneurship skills, changing the mindset and to form women organisations groups. Scaling them up and bringing them out to other regions to learn from others we enable them to see what others do and how they can graduate from that. Even if we still have problems with the process of value-added chain (processing, packaging and export) we need, for Africa, women who work together, women who trust each other and want to share the skills, the knowledge”.

Leonard Mizzi (Director, Directorate C, EC – DG DEVCO) pointed out that “It is important to ensure that women do not get stuck in a particular niche and this need to be done by either expanding the role of the women and enabling them to move in other parts of the value chain (producing, processing, marketing, exporting) or in other sectors (for example an agribusiness value chain integrated with tourism or energy sectors). The States have the responsibility to invest in basic infrastructures and promote the decent work agenda ensuring fair pay, decent workplace (in terms of water supply, energy and childcare facilities). This become essential to make women able to be an actor in a more formalised economy and to benefit from market engagements”.

Lucy Muchoki (CEO of Kenya Agri-business and Agro Industry Alliance) recalled the success story of the rural Huduma Registration Centres: “To move from the informal to formal settlement, Kenya created the Huduma Registration Centres to register the activities also in the rural areas in order to immediately access to public services and financing.  The access to finance is one of the most sensitive needs for women in Kenya. Today, using the money transfer tools (like M-Pesa) women are able to borrow money and return 100% on a daily basis. So, the challenge for Kenya, and other ACP countries, is to empower the access to finance by women in order to make them able to do their business.”

Viwanou Gnassounou (ASG, ACP Group of States) stated that “the role of ACP Group, as a public entity, with the resources that it can secure at its level, is to promote and scale up success stories like the one of Kenya and the Mama Benz of West Africa, and work with public entities and EU to replicate these models also in the Caribbean and Pacific countries because the challenges are the same in the community of the ACP States”.

In conclusion, Gillian Stewart (Programme Manager - Women in Business Development Incorporated) spoke about the actual life in the business communities of Samoa, a country where people have easy access to land but need trade capacity building and strengthening the sense of confidence in business relationships and in enhancing the agribusiness value chains.



The panel discussion “Going Digital: Sustainable Development in Agriculture for Women - Supporting Women’s Access to ICTs for Agriculture and Promoting Participation” highlighted access to appropriate technology, skills training, engagement with the private sector and gender sensitive ICT policies as critical areas to tackle if we are to improve women’s access to ICTs for agriculture.

Gender disaggregated data on access to ICTs was also highlighted as a key means to make the case for stronger investment and create an enabling environment for women. Increasing access to ICTs, will, panellists agreed, increase employment opportunities, food and nutrition security.

The panel addressed the considerable challenges that the rural digital divide presents, and how the problem is even more acute for women who face a triple divide: digital, rural and gender. Together with the audience, the session celebrated some of the initiatives that strengthen women’s voice and participation in the digitalisation of the agricultural supply chain. The examples presented, such as mAgri, Agrinfo, Women in Business Development, foster rural women’s awareness and access to ICT across the agricultural supply chain, empowering them to be change-makers in their communities and improve livelihoods.



Programme funded by European Union at the request of ACP Group - Implemented by AESA CONSORTIUM