Australian volunteer bringing together women traders in Africa

Ashly Hope has a vision: to connect and empower women working in trade governance across Africa.

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Australian volunteer Ashly Hope with Justice Kasango of the COMESA Court of Justice in Sudan at the launch of tralac's Women in Trade Governance Network in March 2019. Supplied: tralac
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Ashly with her colleague at tralac, Talkmore Chidede. Supplied: Ashly Hope

As research mentor at the Trade Law Centre (tralac) based in Cape Town, South Africa, Ashly Hope helped instigate, develop and launch tralac’s Women in Trade Governance Network.

“Trade is still a male-dominated industry, particularly in Africa,” Ashly explains. “Women are under-represented as traders, but also as professionals working in policy development, trade negotiations, trade law, research and other trade related areas.

“As in other areas of the economy, women are particularly under-represented at the highest levels.

We also know that when women’s voices are not present, women’s experiences can be ignored.

— Ashly Hope

So far 80 women from 18 African countries working in various roles in trade governance have joined the network.

“This network of highly skilled women will be able to support and empower one another to provide better advice, better analysis, better leadership and ultimately contribute to better trade governance on the continent,” says Ashly.

“We hope these women will be advocates for women traders and champions of gender mainstreaming in trade in Africa.”

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Ashly Hope (middle) in Cape Town with her colleagues at tralac - Anthony and Obert. She's holding a sign with the number of days she had been on assignment as part of a social media campaign for the Australian Volunteers Program. Supplied: Ashly Hope

Alongside her colleagues at tralac, Hope successfully applied for funding from the Australian High Commission in South Africa to pilot a development program as part of the network.

Ashly says that for the 12 places offered on the program, tralac received more than 70 applications “from some really incredible women in trade.”

As part of the development program, these 12 women will receive mentoring and technical training and work on their professional skills. They will also have access to tralac’s other capacity building and trade dialogue programs.

Through her volunteering role, Ashly has had the opportunity to travel to Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Namibia and Lesotho.

I’ve been privileged to present tralac views to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, to African Union workshops and at the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Industrialisation Week.

— Ashly Hope

Ashly also helped develop the use of online learning as part of tralac’s capacity building work and delivered capacity building training to support Lesotho’s financial sector policy development.

With a focus on trade in services, the financial sector and the role of regulation, she has prepared a number of blog posts, trade research pieces, infographics and analysis which have contributed to tralac’s knowledge base of African trade issues.

Ashly says her greatest achievement as an Australian volunteer has been the connections she’s made: “with fellow volunteers, with my tralac colleagues and most importantly, with many people working in trade on the continent and off – especially the wonderful, talented and determined women working in trade governance.”