In mid-July the ICCIM (Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industries, and Mines) organized the 1st International Conference and Exhibition on Women and Trade, in which the different participants tackled the current difficulties being faced by Iranian women in finding quality jobs in commerce. Besides Iranian and ICCIM authorities, several scholars, UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) officials and country representatives (including Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia and Turkey) attended the meeting.
According to a press release published by the UNCTAD, the idea of organizing the conference surfaced when ICCIM authorities faced the fact that less than 5% of the 85,000 companies affiliated to the chamber are owned by women and that, though they represent almost 60% of the country´s university graduates, women are having problems inserting themselves in the labour market for the trade industry.
During the conference, issues such as employment opportunities, entrepreneurship, the creation of business environments better suited for the empowerment and advancement of women, and trade policy alternatives designed to facilitate and promote further participation by women in the trade industry were thoroughly discussed by the participants. The expansion of the current scope of women´s rights specific to the business sector was mentioned as a key step that would benefit society as a whole.
Women entrepreneurs present at the conference listed a number of common problems they have encountered in doing business, including the obtainment of credit for trade, business expansion and modernization, as well as a lack of training offers addressing their specific backgrounds and needs. What became evident as the meeting advanced is that there is a generalized failure by Iranian government bodies, universities, professional chambers and civil society to provide proper assistance and information for women entrepreneurs seeking to seize international trade opportunities. These complaints reflect previous findings by UNCTAD officials working in this field.
UNCTAD has offered its support in furthering women´s participation in the Iranian labour market and achieving the insertion of their companies in the international market. The organization of courses and training activities channeled through UNCTAD´s trade, gender, and development programme could both enable Iranian women take on a greater role in the economic growth and development of their country and show participating countries how trade policies affect women.