The UN Development Fund for Women – UNIFEM – says about half of Africa’s population lives below the international poverty line of one US dollar a day. And it says women are bearing the brunt of that poverty. As a result, UNIFEM is calling for a gender analysis of national budgets in Africa to ensure there’s “equitable allocation of public resources for women.”
UNIFEM says a country’s budget is a policy statement reflecting the social and economic priorities of a government. It says a gender analysis “holds a government accountable for its commitments to gender equality and women’s rights…and promotes transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
Among those taking part in UNIFEM’s budget review is Winnie Byanyima, a member of Uganda’s parliament and head of an ngo called Forum on Women and Democracy.
"We have been battling for many years to get governments to look at men and women as equal human beings and to deliver to them equally. And we find that the budget is a very powerful and important entry point to ask government to treat men and women, girls and boys equally."
She says a budget should give priority to all the work done by African women that is “unvalued and unpaid.”
"All the work that women do in agriculture, all the household work that women work, the caring for children, caring for the sick, caring for the elderly. Fetching water, fetching firewood. All these activities that actually take time away from a woman that she could use to do productive work or to earn income. This kind of time and location would be corrected through the budget, if the budget cared for women as much as it cared for men."
The Ugandan MP says when governments require poor people to share the cost of basic services, such as health and water, it “transfers responsibility from the state to the shoulders of women.”
"Even with this framework of poverty reduction, poverty reduction strategies, that even within that framework our governments are more and more marginalized – less and less capable of taking leadership to drive their economies because much is determined elsewhere. So, we want to strengthen the voices of people, to speak with their governments, to make the governments more accountable to men and women. But we also want to strengthen the voices of our governments before the international community where some of these issues are determined."
Ms. Byanyima says this includes the IMF, World Bank and the World Trade organization.
She’s calling for a “deepening of the democratic process so that poor people can shape the priorities of governments, whether they be local governments or central governments.”
"One of the strategies that has been found effective is to use quotas to boost the number of women in the local government and in the central government. Quotas have been found effective in the Scandinavian countries. We are using them in parts of eastern and southern Africa. And there are commitments to these quotas in international agreements. Most of our governments have made commitments to achieve certain targets but they don’t implement these."
UNIFEM says it provides technical assistance to governments to help assess the gender impact of their public expenditures. It also offers training for civil society and parliamentarians to better understand the budget process. The UN agency has also established the Gender Budget Knowledge Network to promote an exchange of information “across countries and regions.”