Why budget should be gender responsive

ON Thursday last week (which was a Budget Day), the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) organised a Budget Digest Session, popularly known as ‘Kijiwe cha Kahawa’ at their Mabibo office in Dar es Salaam.

The goal was to give the participants an opportunity to follow up the State of the Economy speech and the National Development Plan, as well as hear the National Budget Speech for the Financial Year 2023/2024, which was read in Parliament by the Minister for Finance and Planning Dr Mwigulu Nchemba.

The contributors of this session included Civil Society organisations, Women Rights groups, Knowledge Centre   members, gender   and   development members, development partners, academicians, representatives from Local Government Authorities (LGAs), community members, the media, TGNP Board members and the staff.

This year’s theme carried a title ‘Promoting Inclusive Budgetary Process for a gender responsive in 2023/24 Budget’ which triggered interesting contributions from the participants, all aimed at making the country speed up its development agenda that leaves nobody behind.

A participant, Mr Dominick Ndunguru was impressed by the government’s move to start giving loans to students (especially girls) in technical colleges, saying the move shall help them to study in serene environment and avoid unnecessary temptations.

“It is undeniable fact at times female students are forced to engage in prostitution to sustain themselves economically while in colleges. If they start getting loans they won’t be lured into such immoral behaviours” he said.

Ms Siwema Makene, a gender trainer based in Dar es Salaam called upon Members of Parliament while contributing into budget to urge the government improve sanitary system in primary schools.

She says that young pupils in primary schools should have their own toilets and that shall automatically enable them avoid contracting communicable diseases like Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

Opening the Debate, the TGNP Director Ms Lilian Liundi said the aim of the gathering (which has been organised by TGNP for the past four years consecutively, was to give various stakeholders the opportunity to express their opinions and suggestions which can later facilitate the improvement of its implementation in terms of gender.

“This year, Kijiwe cha Kahawa’s responsibility is to encourage the concept of participation for all groups to prepare and implement budgets with a gender perspective. We urge Parliamentarians to take into consideration the question of gender while doing the debate in the House,” she said.

The Budget Digest is one of the TGNP’s platforms to build collective power that brings positive change in policy, practice and thought before the parliament endorses the same budget after few days of debating.

“Our meeting here is aimed at mobilising joint forces to demand allocation of budget for the gender wing, in order to solve challenges of various groups in society, especially those marginalised, such as women, poor men, people with disabilities and young people”, said Ms Liundi.

She added that for 30 years now, TGNP has been at the forefront of building capacity and influencing the budget with a gender perspective and has been involved in the budget process every year, by enabling women and marginalised groups at the community level to participate fully in budget debates.

This is done through process of opportunities and obstacles held at the community level, to raise their priorities and also connect them with the national debate that demands allocation of resources for the community as a whole.

“We congratulate the government for showing us the desire to develop gender equality in the country by taking steps to implement some of the recommendations that we have been making every year, through our budget analysis and through the participation of various stakeholders,” she added.

However, she asked the government to use the obtained results in plans and budgets so that the priorities are in line with the needs of the relevant groups.

“We recognise and continue to applaud the efforts of our government in agreeing to the implementation of various national, regional agreements to promote gender equality in the country” she said.

In order to be able to effectively implement these agreements and other policies and plans, a budget with a gender perspective is a fundamental issue, said Ms Liundi.

According to her, if sufficient resources are not allocated, provided and implemented on time, achieving gender equality and sustainable development will be a dream.

Making their contributions during the discussion, different stakeholders congratulated the government for establishing specialist medical services in hospitals and Health Centres that are of great help to women and generally, old people.

They showed concern about services benefiting women and girls in peripheral areas where there are no clinics and others are facing various challenges.

One of the participants Subira Kibiga who is a gender activist from Kigamboni called upon the government to facilitate land ownership to women so that they can fully participate in agricultural activities.

She said that women are engaged in agriculture activities but most of them end up being labourers because they don’t own land and the beneficiaries are mainly men.

“Before the Parliament endorses the 2023/2024 Budget, the parliamentarians should make sure that women and girls’ rights are equally discussed, to enable them get their share in the national cake” she says.

According to Kibiga, women and girls need water and sanitation facilities that are safe, socially and culturally acceptable, and where they can safely dispose of menstrual products in order to manage menstruation in privacy and dignity.

“Girls face embarrassment during menstruation and most will have their first period while at school, which can be very frustrating,” Kibiga said.

She adds that many miss school during this time and they simply can’t compete with boys who attend school regularly. So, primary school girls should be helped to know what menstruation is all about, and why they need to ask for help when it happens.

Menstruation and access to sanitary pads are challenges that significantly hinder the girl child’s access to continued quality education.

According to Kibiga, girls who do not have access to pads miss three to four classes each month during their menses, which adds up to 30 to 40 missed days per school year.

“This is a big challenge which affects these children,” she said adding that “we cannot blame them when they fail to solve mathematics problems for example, because they missed lessons. We should blame it on poverty which is the source of their lack of sanitary pads.”

According to Kibiga, the lack of menstrual pads locked many of these girls from attending school especially in rural areas they are in their menstrual period, and the parliamentarians should seriously address this problem.

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