FOLLOWING Finance Minister Tendai Biti's 2013 Budget presentation a fortnight ago, the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network undertook a gender analysis of the "pro-poor" budget.
Particular focus was on socio-economic sectors to assess the budget's sensitivity to the differences between women, men, boys and girls.
Gender budgeting challenges the common assumption that macroeconomics are inherently gender neutral by analysing end exposing the differential gender impact of the budget and seeking to reduce gender gaps through equitable resource allocation.
Historically, women have been marginalised especially due to patriarchal systems that entrench male dominance in all key sectors of the economy while women remain excluded.
While "pro-poor" fiscal policies tend to target sectors in which the poor are engaged or aim to remove constraints, it should be recognised that often, women occupy the bottom rung of the poverty continuum for various reasons including lack of access to equal opportunities.
The proposed allocation for social and pro-poor services encompassing education, health, water and sanitation, employment creation, the Women's Development Fund, the Youth Development Fund, indigenisation, mining, SMEs, social protection, and support to vulnerable groups amounts to US$407 015 000 minus recurrent expenditures.
This constitutes about 10,5 percent of the total budget, which is intended to benefit approximately 65 percent of the population falling under the poverty datum line. This is merely a drop in the ocean of what is sufficient to alleviate poverty among Zimbabweans.
Of importance to note is that although a US$30 000 gender-mainstreaming budget was set aside in 2012, to date nothing has been disbursed as yet in that regard. In fact, the gender-mainstreaming budget for the sector has been inexplicably reduced to US$10 000.
Under social protection, the 2013 National Budget proposed an allocation of US$25,7 million towards areas that include BEAM (US$15 million), targeting assistance to orphans, child headed families, disabled, elderly, chronically ill.
Share of health in the overall budget has noticeably had a decreasing trend over the years, with current per capita investment in health by Government being US$18, which falls far below the US$34 recommended by the National Health Strategy (2009-2013) and World Health Organisation. However, focus is on revitalisation of health service delivery with an emphasis on primary and preventive health care -- which constitutes 10 percent of total expenditure, an improvement of 2 percent towards achievement of the Abuja Declaration target of 15 percent.
In terms of Industry, Trade and Commerce, the majority of Zimbabweans depend on Small and Medium Enterprises as a source of their livelihood given that approximately 25 percent of the population is formally employed.
Women constitute more than 60 percent in SMEs sector; hence allocation of the budgeted figure should have a bias for women. However, the amount allocated to that sector is too little.
In terms of gender and women's affairs, two key issues take centre stage: gender mainstreaming and the Women's Development Fund. Of interest is the fact that although six line ministries have been receiving allocations for sector specific gender mainstreaming since 2010, no actual disbursements have been made to all of them except the Ministry of Women's Affairs.
As long as there is no practical gender mainstreaming happening within sector policies and budgets, the empowerment of women and enhancement of gender awareness across government structures will remain a mirage.
Sectoral gender mainstreaming activities must be adequately implemented in order to support the effectiveness of the WDF. The Ministry itself was allocated US$100 000 for gender mainstreaming; an amount considered too meagre given the level and magnitude of the work to be undertaken by the Ministry.
On the other hand, the Women's Development Fund was allocated US$2,5m scaling down from US$3m in 2012.
Though the reasons for scale-down are not clear, the fund remains insufficient to cater for the entire cross-section of women in need.
Moreover, there is need to define the women who constitute the target group rather than to make blind allocations.
Nevertheless the WDF is an important resource available for women, particularly those in rural areas who generally do not qualify to borrow from financial institutions due to lack of collateral security. Access to credit and skills training remain the key areas that need to be addressed in order to enhance participation of women in the mainstream economy.
Zimbabwe is party to the Sadc Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which recommend that 10 percent of the national budget should be allocated to the agricultural sector.
Under the 2011/2012 budgets, only 5,6 percent was allocated to agriculture. This reduction in allocation comes in a context where there are serious technology and equipment needs in the sector, particularly for women.
There is also need for research around farming activities suitable in the "new" agro-ecological zones due to shifts in original zones as a result of climate change. There is increased female manual labour due to conservation farming and there is low agriculture production with 1,7 million people estimated to be in need of food aid in 2012 (FAO, 2012).
The US$20 000 gender-mainstreaming allocation to agriculture put to basic mathematics is quite insignificant as it translates to US$2 000 per province.
ZWRCN is an information-based organisation committed to gender equality and equity. It is currently providing free basic computer skills training to women across all age groups. For all enquiries, please contact ZWRCN on email: email@example.com/ website: www.zwrcn.org.zw/ call on +2634 700250/252388/ visit ZWRCN offices at 288 Hebert Chitepo Avenue cnr 7th Street, Harare.