Civil society representatives from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines have been appointed as ambassadors of the first-ever World Trade Congress on Gender, a research conference to be held on December 5-7, 2022 under the theme “Gender Equality for Sustainable Trade and Recovery.” They will share grassroots perspectives on women’s economic empowerment with researchers, experts and WTO members. They will also provide recommendations on how to drive work on trade and gender forward.
The five Congress ambassadors are testimony to how women are powerful agents of change, and how their resilience is key to the economic recovery of their communities and countries. The Congress ambassadors will address participants at the first plenary session of the conference titled “Women in crisis, from diagnostic to solutions” and will also take part in the closing session.
To attend the World Trade Congress on Gender, all participants must complete an online application form. Participants have until 18 November 2022 (midnight) to register for in-person attendance.
Learn more about the Congress ambassadors below.
Olanike Olugboji, Founder of the Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment, Nigeria
From the age of five, when she was travelling with her parents through Kaduna State in northern Nigeria, Olanike Olugboji observed women and children walking along the roads carrying heavy loads on their heads over long distances. As she grew up, she began to understand these women and girls were leaving their villages to find water and firewood.
Years later, with a background in urban and regional planning, and a passion for the environment that she never lost, she founded the Environmental Management and Protection Network, which became the Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in 2008. “I realised that every environmental challenge I had interest in, whether it was water scarcity, access to clean cooking energy, or land rights, always took me back to the doorstep of women. Yet, they don’t have a say in how they can secure these resources,” she said.
Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Regional Representative of Shifting the Power Coalition; Founder and former coordinator of femLinkPacific, Fiji
A second-generation Fiji Island feminist, Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls works to create information and communication ecosystems that promote women-led solutions to disasters and humanitarian crises.
“I remember listening to my mother singing a feminist anthem about equality, development and peace. When I was 20, she led me through a learning process of listening to local women leaders. When you are given this opportunity to listen to women’s stories, you are responsible for making sure their knowledge connects with policymakers,” she explained.
After a career in mainstream broadcasting, Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls decided in early 2000 that it was time to invest her time and skills in feminist media and communications. Since then, she has coordinated providing civil society inputs to the United Nations and played a multitude of roles in organizing for women’s causes. Today, her work with Shifting the Power Coalition is supporting Pacific Island women’s collective action by using an inclusive peace, development, and humanitarian nexus approach.
Esther Atosha, representative of Young Women Leaders for Peace and entrepreneurial trainer, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Coming from a low-income family, Esther Atosha could not afford to go to university. But she never gave up on her aspirations. “I always dreamt of becoming a politician in my country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. No matter my age, I will go to university, I will get my degree, and I will sit at the decision-making-table,” says Esther Atosha.
Her determination comes from the love she has for her country, which has faced conflict for decades. “We were born in conflict, and we grew up in conflict. I am pushing boundaries so that the next generation doesn’t face these challenges,” she explains.
Today, Esther Atosha is a gender equality activist and representative of Young Women Leaders for Peace. The programme, initiated by the Global Network of Women Peace Builders, helps young women and girls gain the skills and confidence to become leaders in their communities, mostly in conflict-affected regions. Through awareness campaigns, training activities, workshops and informal education, she helps other Congolese women to raise their voice, convinced that women’s recovery is key to the country’s resilience.
Paulina Lawsin Nayra, Founder and President of Women Enablers Advocates and Volunteers for Empowering and Responsive Solutions
Paulina Lawsin Nayra is a gender and development trainer advocating for gender equality and civil society participation. She was raised by a single mother who eked out a living by making rice cakes every day, providing home service manicures and pedicures on the weekends, and baking and selling “roscas” during town fiestas.
“A woman supporting herself and her family is a common thing,” says Paulina Lawsin Nayra. “But in the Philippines, where poverty has persisted for generations, many women who earn their livelihood struggle to thrive because of gender issues.”
This problem makes women particularly vulnerable to natural disasters that regularly strike the country. Deeply convinced that women’s empowerment requires mutual understanding and assistance, Paulina Lawsin Nayra founded Women Enablers Advocates & Volunteers for Empowering & Responsive Solutions (WEAVERS) based in Leyte, with the idea that weaving women’s skills and dreams together enables them to support their family and their community, but also their country and the world.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.