The ICRIER report outlines a plan for gender-sensitive land ports in India

India’s land ports act as important gateways for trade with neighboring countries. The role of land ports in facilitating trade, particularly on India’s eastern borders, will continue to grow through the implementation of several regional agreements such as the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and Bangladesh (CEPA), Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement and the BIMSTEC master plan for transport connectivity. However, the barriers women face at land borders are a major reason for the low participation of women in regional trade. To facilitate women’s participation in international trade, the Gender Mainstreaming at India’s Land Ports report, published by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), presents an action plan to make land ports gender-responsive and the necessary supporting measures list both at the land ports and throughout the ecosystem.

Aditya Mishra, Chairman of the Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI), speaking at the report’s launch event, expressed hope that gender mainstreaming initiatives in land ports would become a model for all ports in India. Highly appreciating the study conducted by the Indian Council on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Mr. Mishra stated that LPAI will adopt the letter and spirit of the recommendations, particularly with regard to greater digitization and mechanization of cargo handling.

Speaking at the event, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) Member Rama Mathew said the report would be of great interest to the National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) in the context of Action No. 27 in national trade would Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP), which specifically calls for the promotion of “gender inclusivity in trade”.

Deepak Mishra, Director and Managing Director of ICRIER, informed the audience that gender is a cross-cutting issue in his research interests and that it is a great honor for ICRIER that this study, conducted as part of ICRIER’s Gender and Trade programme, was conducted by an all-female research team.

Nisha Taneja, Head of Trade, Investment and External Relations at ICRIER, explained that the study pursues the focus on “women-led development” both at the national level and on the agenda of international fora such as the G20 One of the first attempts in India, a to develop a comprehensive template for a gender assessment of hard and soft infrastructure in land ports, as a crucial contribution to the incorporation of a gender mainstreaming strategy in trade facilitation measures.

ICRIER’s report finds that currently very few female ‘users’, whether as traders, transport operators or logistics workers, actually visit land ports for trade-related activities. Freight handling procedures and processes are mainly handled by male agents for female traders and by male colleagues for logisticians. Likewise, aside from the few female security guards on duty, only a very small percentage of the staff of port management and operational agencies – “providers” – are women. Hard and soft infrastructure gaps, security related challenges and existing socio-cultural barriers restrict women and make for a challenging environment for them in the land ports in India.

To close the infrastructure gaps, the study developed a “Model Review Checklist” as a benchmarking tool to measure the availability of a gender-specific infrastructure. The model review checklist for gender-responsive infrastructure consists of 57 items in six categories: port information and access, basic services, public facilities, security facilities, cargo handling and digitization. The report points out that both the availability and the quality of infrastructure in land ports are important. Christina Struller, Vice President of Corporate Affairs (ISMEA) at UPS, moderated the panel discussion on key findings and insights, describing the report as extremely insightful and impactful. Panelists included Sharmila H. Amin, Managing Director of Bertling Logistics India Pvt. Ltd., Sudip Kr Dey, President, Calcutta Customs House Agents’ Association, Sushma Morthania, Founder and Director General, India SME Forum, Rajan Sudesh Ratna, Deputy Head, UNESCAP Office South and Southwest Asia, and Francesco Tornieri, Principal Social Development Specialist, Asian Development Bank (ADB).

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