Women and girls face various forms of vulnerability throughout the life cycle. They may face discrimination before or after birth; violence, harassment or abuse; neglect due to dependence and lack of access to resources; social prejudice; and exploitation—whether economic, political, social or religious. They are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination regardless of where they are positioned on the economic and social spectrum. Additionally, their vulnerability increases significantly if they are poor, socially disadvantaged or live in a backward or remote area. Gender Responsive Budget (GRB) is a widely accepted strategy that has been employed across more than 100 countries to address these vulnerabilities.
GRB uses the Budget as an entry point to apply a gender lens to the entire policy process. It is concerned with gender sensitive formulation of legislation, policies, plans, programmes and schemes; allocation and collection of resources; implementation and execution; monitoring, review, audit and impact assessment of programmes and schemes; and follow-up corrective action to address gender disparities. GRB is not just a one-time activity. It is a continuous process that must be applied to all levels and stages of the policy process. The idea behind GRB is not about literally dividing funds in a fifty-fifty ratio among men and women. GRB is about bringing a gender perspective in policy making at different levels. For example, recent schemes like Digital India are noteworthy but lack specific focus on digital empowerment of girls and women given the gender inequality in society. At grass root level, often women with low or no literacy levels are left out in technological shifts which become important part of daily life in society. Likewise, there is scope to integrate safety of women as a major concern in flagship centrally sponsored schemes such as JawaharLal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), PMGSY, etc. While undertaking town planning, policy makers and budget experts need to do gender budgeting to ensure women-friendly civic infrastructure—water, sanitation, health care, safe transport, public toilets, help lines, skill development for crisis management and, safe transport and safety at work place.
In brief, it needs to be recognised that women’s issues do not have to be seen as the concerns of the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) and Social Welfare (SW) Departments alone. There is a need to recognise that women are contributors to and recipients of services provided by different departments like Health, Education, Home, Tribal, Public Works, RDD, Housing, Social Justice, etc. and that they have different needs. Policies have to be thus designed and financed accordingly to create maximum benefits to all.
Institutionalisation of Gender Budgeting
The first important step towards institutionalisation of gender budgeting would be to ensure that a policy guideline or mandate is not only issued from the highest level of the government but also implemented by the concerned ministries and departments. Formation of a high level committee chaired by the Chief Secretary or the Additional Chief Secretary rank official will also be crucial to ensure that mechanisms are put in place to operationalise gender budgeting. All state governments need to create a gender cell, preferably within the finance and planning department to ensure that budgets are effectively reaching women and girls. Akin to environmental impact assessment, the format for approval of new programmes and schemes needs to include a section on gender to ensure that the design of the scheme is gender sensitive. All departments must include a section on gender in their annual reports and outcome budgets. Concerted efforts need to be made to ensure that sex disaggregated is collected. Wherever needed, the monitoring formats should be revised to collect the data. Women’s Policy should have a clear action plan with roles and responsibilities and timeline delineated for relevant ministries/departments.
Translation of Gender Commitments to Budgetary Commitments
Gender promises made by the state gets translated into gender responsive budgetary commitments of the Union ministries and departments. Like previous years, the Gender Budget Statement (GBS) for the year 2019–20, in its Part A has provided schemes and programmes 100% targeted for women and Part B gives the schemes that are expected to use minimum of 30 per cent of the total allocation for women and girls. The GBS is significant as it is the only source of verifiable, quantitative information on government’s efforts at ensuring budgetary commitments towards women. The overall financial allocation for the GBS for 2019–20 (BE) is Rs 1,31,700 crore while the same for 2018–19 (BE) was Rs 1,24,367 crore. Thus there is an increase of Rs 7,333 crores in the current budget.
Decline in Allocation for Gender Concerns
When it comes to gender responsive budget, there is continuous decline since 2017–18. The actual expenditure of the Union Budget for Part A, that is schemes 100% targeted at women, was Rs 28,644 crore in 2018–19, while the Revised Budget for 2018–19 got reduced to Rs 26,544 crore, and the current year’s allocation is Rs 26,504 crore. Thus the allocation of PART A has consistently declined.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) budget has got nearly 1/5 rise in its budgetary allocation in the current budget.
Gender based Violence
Since 2018–19, there has been a decline in the budgetary provision for schemes addressing violence against women. The current budget has increased financial allocation for only one scheme One Stop. Financial support for shelter homes for women survivors of violence, Swadhar Greh and Ujjawala scheme for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked girls and women has reduced by half as compared to the previous year. The Helpline for women in distress has been reduced by more than 1/3 as compared to the previous year. The promise of a Scheme for Acid Attack Victim’s Welfare Fund and Restorative Justice to Rape Victims has remained only on paper even when as per National Crimes Records Bureau, the nature, intensity and gravity of crime against girls and women are escalating day by day.
The allocation for Government’s flagship scheme Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is stagnant. Unitilsation of the Nirbhaya Fund has been miserably poor.
Women and Work
There has been drastic reduction of work participation of women over the last 5 years across educational backgrounds and location; yet no scheme is provided for enhancement of women in the workforce. There has been reduction in financial allocation for Scheme for National Mission for Empowerment of Women from Rs 267 crore in 2018–19 (BE) to Rs 150 crore in 2019–20 (BE). Fund allocation for Support to Training and Employment Programme (STEP) is miniscule, and even this has further declined from Rs 5 crore in 2018–19 (BE) to Rs 3 crore in 2019–20 (BE).
Women in Agriculture
As per NSSO 68th Round, 80% of women workers were in the agrarian sector. There has been feminisation of agriculture as men are migrating to the cities to earn cash income. But women are not recognised as farmers as women do not have land-holding in their names and cannot access all schemes for farmers. Only Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM) has a provision for women Farmers’component under Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana. But the most important challenge is to get an official recognition as ‘women famers’, only then can women farmers access credit and get all agriculture related entitlements under 30% women’s component in Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Sub-Mission on Agriculture Mechanisation, National Food Security Mission, National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm, Sub-Mission on Seed and Planting Material and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. Likewise, women are not eligible for the income guarantee scheme of Rs 6,000 per annum under the Prime Minister Kisaan Samman Yojana for farmers owning less than 2 hectares of land announced in the Interim Budget, as women do not own land.
Gender Audit of Welfare Schemes
Budgetary provisions for crèche scheme for working parents’ children has dropped. The financial allocation under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) of Rs 2,500 crore in 2019–20 (BE) is highly inadequate to meet the medical expenditure of over half a million pregnant women in India. Moreover, inadequate number of Anganwadi workers under ICDS and helpers and ASHA workers of National Health Mission render them inhumanly overburdened. Reduction in social sector budget for maternal health, employment, violence against women, practical gender needs in the care economy in the context of lowering of real wages due to food price inflation and informalisation of workforce has made toiling women’s lives precarious. Announcement of policy for social security and social protection of domestic workers on March 5, 2018 by the Labour Ministry has not been translated in terms of budgetary allocation in 2019–20 (BE).
GoI has approved a new scheme, Mahila Shakti Kendra (subsuming erstwhile National Mission for Empowerment of Women Scheme) for implementation during 2017–18 up to 2019–20 to empower rural women through community participation. Due to mass movement of women farmers, the current budget has made some promises, but without any doable agenda.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards
The current budget has promised 50 per cent increase in the honorarium of Anganwadi workers, but even after this increase, the long-standing demand of minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month will not be met. The financial provision for the Scheme for Transgender Persons under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has been negligible and mostly unutilised. The same is the story of the fund for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims. There is a need for enhancement in allocation for special funds for the survivors of Acid Attack for their medical treatment and reconstructive surgeries. The most neglected sections under the Union Budget 2019–20 are the girls from SC, ST and minority religious communities. The Right to Pee campaign has highlighted need for mass construction of rest rooms for girls and women in public places such as bus stations, railway platforms, market places, tourist spots, public schools and colleges, and industrial zones, allocation for which needs to be made from 30% component gender budget component of sanitary budget, but no progress is made due to resistance of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to implement GRB.
Human rights organisations, transgender groups and women’s studies centers need to work proactively to ensure gender responsive participatory budgeting at all levels of governance.
The Gender Budget Cells that are supposed to serve as as focal points for coordinating gender budgeting initiatives within their Ministries and across Departments have played a major role in budgetary allocations of the Union Budget. So far 56 Ministries / Departments have confirmed setting up of a cell and / or nominating a nodal person. This could materialise because the Ministry of Women and Child Development, in collaboration with UN Women, developed a Manual and Handbook for Gender Budgeting for Gender Budget Cells for Central Ministries and Departments. This strategy of the Government on Gender Budgeting and Gender Mainstreaming during 2004 to 2014 resulted in many State Governments like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand adopting Gender Budgeting.
Gender economists are aware that concerns of women cannot be addressed through the Ministry of Women and Child Development alone. It is on the work of women that success of several sectors rest. The changing demographics of agriculture, with more than 75% of all women workers, women’s disproportionately large contribution to the export and services sector and in the unorganised sectors—all these need to be located in our policies. Each of these sectors needs to make concerted efforts to address women’s concerns through: recognising women’s contributions, addressing their gender specific concerns and organising their voice; investing in skills of women and upgrading their work spaces and providing common work facilities; providing women access to new technologies and credit schemes; paying special attention to caste and minority derived exclusion within gender. Hence, it is important to prioritise universalisation of Gender budgeting (including gender audit) and Gender outcome assessment in all Ministries / Departments at Central and State levels. The Gender Budget Cells located in the different ministries need to be strengthened so that women’s concerns can be mainstreamed across different sectors. Further, it needs to be ensured that each of such measures (as listed above) is backed with adequate resource allocation. Calling for implementation of the Women Component Plan (WCP) across all ministries could ensure at least a minimum resource allocation targeted at women. The poor and even receding implementation of WCP as pointed by the Mid-Term Appraisal of the Tenth Plan warrants special efforts at correction. Considering the large numbers of women in unpaid work and women’s central role in the care economy, to address women’s concerns in these sectors, policies need to focus on social services to support women’s care roles (old age, child care). With increasing women’s role in the care economy (both paid and unpaid), adequate resource allocations need to be made to support women’s care roles. In the absence of sex disaggregated data, evaluation of schemes through a gender lens or any effort at strengthening gender dimensions of existing schemes poses a big question. So, provision of such data should be prioritised. In the light of the present agrarian crisis and the changing face of agriculture being highly gendered, the vulnerability of women farmers in particular needs attention in the larger context of food security.
Considering the huge gender disparities in land ownership patterns, women’s access to land needs to be strengthened immediately. This could be done by (a) improving women’s claims to family land (by enhancing legal awareness on inheritance laws, provide legal support services, etc.); (b) improving access to public land by ensuring that all land transfers for poverty alleviation, resettlement schemes, etc., recognise women’s claims; etc., (c) Improving women’s access to land via market through provision of subsidised credit to poor, by encouraging group formation for land purchase or lease by poor women, etc.,
Women’s rights organisations in India have demanded that the government should ensure adequate gender budgeting in all ministries and departments, enact a comprehensive Food Security Bill, ensure universal PDS as a core component, allocate 6% of GDP for health, allocate 6% of GDP for education, make budgetary allocation to cover special schemes for women workers, increase allocation for women farmers, enhance resource allocation for tribal, Dalit and minority women and increase budgetary support for schemes to assist women-headed households and differently abled women. The target of 30% gender allocations under all ministries has not yet been achieved. This must be implemented immediately. There is need for gender audit and gender outcome appraisal of all ministries and departments at the central and state levels. Very often, resource allocations made under gender budgeting do not reach in time and they remain unspent. There should be proper monitoring and supervision of the allocated funds with greater transparency and accountability at all levels.
(Vibhuti Patel teaches at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.)
Meher Engineer: A Requiem for a Man of Reckonable Height Meheryar Hosang Engineer was born on December 20, 1940 in