Women in India awaiting next big step in gender budgeting
Women’s groups analysing the impact of the gender budgeting exercise initiated by the UPA government more than five years back feel that while the pioneering initiative has done its bit in sensitising people to women’s needs, much more needs to be done in terms of increasing allocation and devising better schemes.
The National Common Minimum programme of the UPA made a committment towards gender budgeting which found reflection in former finance minister P Chidambaram’s speech in this government’s first budget in 2004-05. “Women’s groups have met me and urged me to consider gender budgeting. This means that the budget data should be presented in a manner that the gender sensitivities of the budgetary allocations are clearly highlighted,” he said.
The promise was fulfilled in the next year’s budget when the government introduced along with the Budget documents a separate statement highlighting the gender sensitivities of the budgetary allocations under 10 demands for grants. The exercise has been repeated in subsequent budgets.
Appreciating the government’s efforts, Kanta Singh from Women Power Connect, a coalition of women’s groups, academic institutions and women leaders which holds dialogues with policymakers on women’s issues, pointed out that the gender budgeting exercise had indeed sensitised the government to women’s needs. “It has underlined the fact that women have separate needs than men,” she said.
However, the government is still a long way from meeting the target of allocating 30% of resources to measures targetting women as promised in the Ninth five year Plan (it is estimated at a little over 5%). To top that, allocation for women specific programmes have almost remained static as a portion of the total government expenditure (at 5.5%) over the last two years.
“The concept is too new to have made much of an impact,” Ms Singh said, adding that a lot more needs to done.
Women groups now want the government to take gender budgeting to its next level now. “Since food security impacts on women disproportionately and National Family Health Survey data shows that anemia levels among women are going up, it is extremely important that the National Food Securities Act with adequate allocations and gender responsive provisions to see the light of the day. This would have a far reaching impact on ‘aam aurat,” says Yamini Mishra, director, Centre for Budget Analysis.