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WCO celebrates International Women’s Day with a pioneering campaign

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BRUSSELS : On 8 March, the World Customs Organization (WCO) joins the international community in celebrating International Women’s Day 2024 by highlighting the roles women play in Customs operations worldwide. In line with the United Nations’ theme “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”, and the WCO theme 2024 “Customs Engaging Traditional and New Partners with Purpose”, the WCO has launched an initiative to amplify the contributions of women in Customs, underscoring the ongoing need for gender equality and diversity in Customs.

Starting on 4 March, the campaign, launched by WCO Secretary General Ian Saunders, brings to the forefront the remarkable and sometimes untold stories of women in Customs from every corner of the world. These narratives delve into the challenging environment in which these women perform their duties – be it airports, seaports, land borders, or even at fragile borders. The initiative aims to shed light on the resilience, determination, and contributions of these women, whose efforts in such demanding contexts remain largely unrecognized.

Launching the campaign, Secretary General Saunders shared an idea told to him by a colleague in the context of gender equality and diversity: “You cannot be what you cannot see”.  He emphasized the importance of showcasing the stories of strong and capable women to inspire the next generation. He further stressed that gender equality is not a one-time goal but a continuous journey requiring persistent advocacy and action. In this regard, the WCO will highlight every month the story of a successful female Customs official. The first story in the series is that of Ms. Gael Grooby, the acting Director of the Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate of the WCO.

In a video message to the Customs community, Secretary General Saunders stated that “Gender equality and diversity are first and foremost questions of rights and prerequisites for sustainable development. And, in the Customs environment, these are contributors to operational effectiveness because confronting the most complex challenges requires that we bring the widest array of perspectives and expertise.”

He added that, “To succeed in implementing gender responsive and inclusive measures, engaging with partners is critical. Customs should actively collaborate with other government agencies and the private sector, particularly with associations representing the interests of women traders. As customs, it is vital that we continuously engage with a broad range of partners on these topics to ensure that our services effectively serve all segments of the population.”

The WCO’s commitment to gender equality and diversity goes well beyond this campaign. Efforts include the introduction of the Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool, launched in December 2023, designed to help Member administrations assess and improve their gender equality practices. Members are encouraged to engage with this tool and provide feedback, furthering the collective endeavor to create a more inclusive and equitable Customs environment.

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