Canvassing gender-budgeting for sustainable devt

The need to remove all barriers on women growth has been an ongoing national conversation. ENE OSANG writes on the recent call for gender-budgeting as a tool for promoting sustainable development.

Women have often been described as the engendered species following the barriers they encounter in their private, social and economic lives due to the high level of patriarchy in the society.

History has shown that societies where women’s rights are respected and where women are full members of the community, enjoying the same rights and having the same freedoms as the men, prosper and succeed to the benefits of all members of that community.

Events have also proven that societies where the reverse is the case tend to perform poorly across all the development indices, and are often defined by poverty, high crime rates and injustice manifested in various insidious forms.

This can be likened to the current Nigerian situation with heated polity of various demands and aspirations. It is not mere coincidence, it has been argued often that Nigeria is like a bird flying with one feather.

According to the speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, for Nigeria to succeed in building a prosperous and peaceful nation, there must be conscious efforts to ensure a more equal society where women’s rights are considered and respected.

Gbajabiamila stated this in his address at a workshop on mainstreaming gender- responsive budgeting organised by the House Committee on Women Affairs in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, the 100 Women Lobby Group, Action Aid Nigeria held at the National Assembly (NASS) on Tuesday, where he made a case for genuine women inclusion in governance and resource allocation.

Gender-budgeting concept

Recently, President Mohammadu Buhari presented the 2021 budget proposal, and gender experts have emphasised the prerogative of the National Assembly to implement policies that will impact on the lives of all citizens; hence, the call for an all-inclusive budgeting concept in line with the global best practices.

Welcoming participants to the workshop, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Women Affairs, Otunba Adewunmi Onanuga, said it was important that legislators and all stakeholders have the knowledge of what gender- responsive budgeting entails in order to be able to deliver good dividends to the citizenry. According to her, they need to be more pragmatic in their approach to national issues.

Also, in a keynote address, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, said gender-budgeting is not a call to budget for women issues, but a more equitable way to budget for all citizens including men, women, girls, boys, and the elderly.

Why gender-budgeting?

Presenting a paper entitled, “What is gender and why it matters,” the national coordinator, 100 Women Lobby Group, Felicia Onibon, said it is pertinent to examine male’s and female’s roles by understanding their needs and ensuring that their involvement in power and decision making levels are reached.

This, Onibon adds, is an important consideration in development, and a way of looking at how social norms and power structures impact on the lives and opportunities available to different groups of men and women.

She, therefore, urged authorities particularly the legislature to “engender the nation’s budgets” in order to incorporate gender-perspective into its process so as to make government budgets more gender-responsive.

“If budgets fail to respond to the needs and demands of the poor and women, resources will not be adequately directed for the achievement of equity and for gender specific programmes, as well as promoting opportunities for women in the economy.

“The goal of gender responsive budgeting is therefore to achieve equity and equality, and in the long run empower the vulnerable groups in the society. It is an all-inclusive system which promotes efficiency in the use of public resources, accountability, transparency, and good governance,” she said.

She said further that the concept of gender mainstreaming which was first proposed at the 1985 Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, is a strategy for integrating gender concerns in the analysis, formulation and monitoring of policies, programmes, and projects.

“It is, therefore, a means to an end, not an end in itself; a process, not a goal. Gender-mainstreaming, as a strategy, does not preclude interventions that focus only on women or only on men. In some instances, the gender analysis that precedes programme design and development reveals severe inequalities that call for an initial strategy of sex-specific interventions.

“However, such sex-specific interventions should still aim to reduce identified gender disparities by focusing on equality or inequity as the objective rather than on men or women as a target group.”

Statistical representations of society by gender help in understanding and appreciating how men and women, boys and girls experience life differently and face different barriers in accessing services, economic resources and political Opportunities.”

Also, another presentation entitled “gender-responsive budgeting” by Ijeoma Echeruo, stresses the need for gender-responsive budgeting as it concerns fiscal policies and budgets.

Echeruo noted that expenditure and revenue policies have different implications for women and men, and differentially affect their abilities to contribute to production and access to markets.

“A gender-responsive budget focuses on the composition and effectiveness of national expenditures and revenues,” she said.

Lawmakers’ role

Gbajabiamila, while affirming the crucial role of legislators in ensuring gender-responsive budgets, stressed the need for women’s issues needed to be captured in the country’s annual Appropriation Act which sets out policy directions of the government and outlines details of ambitions and priorities to be pursued.

He said: “Whatever aspirations we hold for the advancement of women in Nigeria ought to be reflected in the annual appropriation act of the federal republic of Nigeria as a matter of course.

“To succeed in our shared ambition of building a prosperous and peaceful nation, we must do everything within our power to ensure that our daughters, and the ones yet unborn, can grow up in a more open, more equal society than their mothers did.

“We will do this through practical policy and legislative action to support the ongoing conversations about women’s rights in our country. Gender-responsive budgeting is in the interest of our collective development and serves the ends of equity and good governance.”

Also, presenting a paper entitled, “Gender Responsive Budgeting,” the president, Ideas.Africa, Mrs. Lolia Emakpore, stressed the role of the Legislature in ensuring a gender-responsive budget, describing the move as “a tool for changing narratives.”

She said gender-budgeting addresses institutional voids in budget process, enables accountability, balance and national growth, adding that it shows inclusiveness, encourages citizens’ confidence on governance and eliminates youth restiveness.

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