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Give us a budget that is inclusive and responsive!

A 2019/20 budget process is going on at Bunge. Ministers and their subordinates are presenting an outlook of what it would look like. The wananchi are anxious and awaiting for some relief which they aren’t sure of. One thing though is for sure, it’s all about themselves.

They would critically look into all areas which benefit them and the rest is story telling. Against this background, TGNP-Mtandao in collaboration with gender and human right activists is advocating for a “Gender Responsive Budgeting: Promoting a National Budget that is inclusive and responds to the concerns of the marginalized.”

Like the “#Me Too” campaign mounted by the French Gender Activists on the social media to raise awareness on the plight of women focusing on sexual violence and abuse, TGNP hopes the government and MP’s will see sense and act accordingly.

The Chinese maxim that ‘a journey of a thousand miles start but with a single step’ holds water. Gender and Feminists activism started with a bhang almost 25 years ago in Beijing but its vibe still rocks and the struggle continues. On Tuesday 2nd, 2019, TGNP-Mtandao held a stakeholders’ forum at New Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam that brought together 70 participants from different disciplines to discuss and ponder on a national budget that addresses the concerns of the marginalized groups in the communities which includes women, a girl child, disabled and the majority poor in the rural areas.

A panel of six renowned Tanzanian gender activists and specialists highlighted on the need to have a budget that is inclusive and responds to the concerns of women, a girl child and disabled. “For over 25 years now we have been advocating for gender equality and human rights in our country and we are convinced that to be able to achieve that and to have a meaningful impact we must advocate for a budget which impacts positively on the lives of the marginalized,” TGNP Mtandao Board Chairperson, Asseny Muro observed.

During the panel discussion, the moderator led panelists through specific aspects which revolved around the thematic area. Some of the key issues that were critically looked into were: What entails a budget with a gender perspective? Can we have a budget which takes into consideration the needs and aspirations of various groups in our communities? Can we have a budget which is participatory and respects the opinions and/or views of all the people in the community? How does national resources impact on the lives of people in the communities? How do we perceive the whole idea of national budget against individual budget (Does it ring a bell in Tanzania?), what about income vis-à-vis expenditure? Does allocated resources reach out to different groups? How and what is the modality? Other crucial issues were:

Do people receive that which has been budgeted for? How and in what manner? Is the budget sufficient? Does it address their concerns and aspirations? Do the citizens contribute to the national cake (Do they pay taxes and other dues? If they don’t pay, why?), How does the government empower marginalized groups in the society? Can the government achieve vision 2025 without taking into consideration issues of gender mainstreaming?

Where do women stand in the industrialization drive? Are they involved? How can Tanzania attain middle income economy without taking into consideration gender mainstreaming? How does economic empowerment strategies help marginalized communities? Can Tanzania achieve SDG’s without taking on board the concerns of the marginalized communities? What is the contribution of the private sector in attaining gender equality and improving the livelihoods of marginalized communities? How does 2019/20 national budget look like?

Is there anything new? Is there a ray of hope in the tunnel? Does it address the highlighted issues? Was the budgeting process transparent and participatory? Throughout the panel discussion, it was generally agreed that sustainable development cannot be achieved in Tanzania if the concerns of the marginalized communities is not fully addressed and taken on board. It was also observed that Tanzania can only attain industrialization drive if women are fully involved throughout the process and are given leadership positions in the decision making organs.

“It’s unfortunate that industrialization policy does not address gender issues and as such women have been left out completely. The government, Civil Society Organizations and other likeminded individuals must continue to enlighten and build capacity of women and all other marginalized groups to understand what it takes to industrialize and what role they ought to play in the process,” recapped Ms Lilian Liundi, TGNP Mtandao CEO.

Ms Liundi also urged women in the country to wake up and challenge the government of their positions in big projects such as construction of SGR, major roads, Stigler’s gauge and industries. “We must raise our voices collectively lest we want to continue lagging behind,” she reminded. Worth noting, tax incentives was highlighted as an important area which the government has to look into.

“The majority of small and medium entrepreneurs are women so an enabling environment for doing business must be created for them to strive,” Mr Samwel Mkwatwa, one the panelist observed. The issue of resource allocation and distribution was also brought up in the discussion. It was noted that the marginalized communities are not benefiting from the national resources.

Women who take up the burden of looking after their families have not been given the attention they deserve. “Women, especially those living in the rural areas are doing a helluva lot yet they are not benefiting from the national resources. “We must unite and raise our voices for them otherwise we shall have a despairing nation,” urged Prof Marjorie Mbilinyi who was one of the panelist in the discussion.

Officiating the closing ceremony, the UN-Women Country Representative, Ms Hodan Addou commended TGNP Mtandao for organizing such an important stakeholder’s forum prior to the National Budget. “This forum is very important as you have been able to discuss and identify important issues that impacts on the lives of the marginalized communities in Tanzania.

You must now ensure that the national development plan is budgeted for and implemented accordingly,” she said. Ms Addou also called upon activists to hold the government accountable and ensure that the budget is inclusive and addresses gender equality in a broader perspective. It is also important to challenge the government to transform paid and unpaid work from a gender viewpoint.

She called upon TGNP Mtandao and other gender institutions to build capacity to all government staff who are involved in preparing the national budget. Jacks Meena, Freelance Media and Communications Consultant. 

Author: By Jacks Meena

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