16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Not Enough Funds for Zimbabwean Women

An Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa-commissioned report entitled "Gender Budgeting: Case Study of the Zimbabwe Experience" bemoans the government's lack of will to proactively budget for women.

"If there is one indicator of a government's - or any other institution's - commitment to social justice, it is its allocation of budgetary resources for women. Often governments and institutions are very quick to tick on the checklist that they have signed and ratified international instruments and put policies and laws in place that promote social justice for women, but they seldom match this with the necessary budgetary allocations," reads the OSISA-commissioned report.

In 2002, when the last decennial census was carried out, the total population was at 11, 631, 657 with women constituting 52 percent. Women's organisations that spoke to The Zimbabwean, in light of the current demographic patterns, called for active civil society interventions to ensure that the needs of women were effectively factored in national fiscal policy and budget formulations.

The national budget and general government policies have in the past been rapped for failing to adequately address women's economic, social, political and personal development needs.

Gender budgeting, which has so many loopholes, should aim "to reduce gender inequalities and to promote gender-sensitive development policies for poverty reduction and improvement of the welfare of women and men, boys and girls through the national budget," according to the Osisa report.

It must also "achieve gender-sensitive budgets that address the needs of all people equitably, while taking into consideration the special needs of people with disabilities, the youth and the elderly".

In the 2013 budget, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development was allocated $10,129,000, a figure that is considered too low for women's needs. Deputy Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development acknowledged that the economic empowerment of women and youth remained a grey area. "If you look at the current population and the budget that was allocated to my ministry, the two do not tally. The money is given to the department is just too little," said Majome.

However, she said it was the responsibility of all the ministries to ensure that they mainstreamed gender in their budgets. "The population of women is ever-increasing and as a ministry we are going to be policing all the other ministries to ensure that they cater for women's needs. We don't want to marginalise women, so we will work with other ministries," said Majome.

Director of Kunzwana Women's Trust, Emmie Wade, said the national budget should have included taxation schemes that favour women since women work a lot harder in fulfilling gender roles. "The government failed to come up with a gender-sensitive budget that ensures, for example, that women obtain vending licenses easily and the vending sites also need proper sanitary and healthy facilities," said Wade.

She added that vocational training and second chance formal education should have been prioritised as women were more likely to be disturbed during schooling.

Natasha Musonza of the Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre said government should improve access to credit through establishing micro-finance programmes and also provide adequate training and education for women. "Women are confronted with a number of challenges, among them lack of capital to start income-generating projects at various levels. They are also burdened with the responsibility of taking care of the family, with little or no resources at all," she said.

Musonza added that the budget had failed to respond or take note of gender differences in economic behaviour and also did not factor in biases that arise from resource allocations based on different roles, needs, responsibilities and relations of women and men.

Chairperson of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Virginia Muwanigwa, said the budget had always failed to aggregate the amount of money actually available for women and the number of women who would benefit. "Looking at the socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe, it is disheartening to note that women bear a disproportionate burden of the country's poverty, despite the existence of pieces of legislation and theoretical frameworks of their economic empowerment," said Muwanigwa.

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