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Gender responsive budget still work in progress

TWO Members of Parliament, Lolesia Bukwimba (Busanda, CCM) and Suzan Lyimo (Special Seats, Chadema) share their views on how to mainstream gender perspectives into the 2020/2021 government budget in this Q&A interview with our Staff Writer.

Below are their thoughts on some of the national budget highlights:

Question: The Ministry of Water’s budget has increased by 15.6 per cent compared to last year. What gender-concerns do you think the ministry should address to ensure women and girls get a fair share of the fiscus?

Hon Susan Lyimo:

Let me start by saying if we had a gender budget statements’ system in place that would have made the implementation of gender-specific programmes in all sectors, much easier.

I’m of the opinion that opportunities to tweak and engender programmes exist through stimulus packages, which can support gender-equitable stimulation of the economy and help to safeguard women’s livelihoods.

Talking about the water sector, the increase in the budget allocation for water-development is welcome but what is important is to ensure the design of programmes responds to the needs on the ground. Currently, in the rural areas, we have some women and girls who are still travelling long distances to fetch water.

Remember we need clean water for almost everything at home, especially at the moment when we should be strengthening protection against Covid-19. We therefore, need to push-up the 71-per cent coverage in rural water supply and again ensure that we improve supply in the urban areas, where we are currently at 84-per cent.

Tanzania is blessed with a lot of water with lakes such as Victoria and Tanganyika, in addition to groundwater in areas such as Dodoma, therefore, it is critical that we invest in infrastructure that distributes this water to the people.

Hon Lolesia Bukwimba:

The government has come a long way to ensure improved coverage of water supply both in the rural and urban settings. I agree that some women and girls are still walking long distances to fetch water in the rural areas.

There are a number of ongoing projects which seek to further improve access to safe water. As a member of parliament for a rural constituency, I am very aware that water means a lot to the majority of rural women as it supports their livelihoods and helps to improve food-security and nutrition.

The majority of women in the rural areas are smallholder-farmers and therefore, water-harvesting infrastructure which can support irrigation schemes is important in the development of rural economies. To improve the design of our water projects, women should be part of the integrated water resources management committees to improve water-governance at community level.

I agree with Honourable Lyimo that Tanzania has a vast underutilized water resource base, but I will also add the need to ensure that water supports equitable, sustainable and productive rural economies for the scaling-up of development projects targeting women.

Q: What gender dimensions did you identify in the budget allocated for the Ministry of Health, looking at the need to support efforts by the sector in the recovery from Covid-19 and a decline in the allocation of funds for prevention of maternal mortality?

Hon Susan Lyimo:

The health sector has gone through one of the most trying times in dealing with Covid-19. The pandemic also showed why it is important for us to continue investing in improving the quality of health services and ensure our readiness to respond to emergencies.

I had hoped for insights on the impact of Covid-19 on the sector itself and on women and men looking at the number of sectors the ministry covers, in addition to understanding how that may have influenced the allocation of funds.

The budget allocated for the prevention of maternal mortality dropped from 5bn/- (2019/2020) to 3.5bn/- and this may be as a result of a decline in the number of incidences from 556 per 100,000 live births (2016) to 292 per 100,000 live births in 2019.

I think we are not yet out of the woods and there is a need to continue strengthening efforts to ensure that no woman dies during childbirth.

Hon Lolesia Bukwimba:

The health sector should be commended for managing to control Covid-19 and as a nation, we should also congratulate the women health-workers who are at the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

As we recover from the virus, a multi-sectoral approach will help to continue enhancing disease-control measures. On the maternal mortality issue, I think there is need to continue investing in reducing the number of women who die during childbirth.

As I studied the allocations, I could see how the budget invested in other interventions to support the reduction in maternal mortality, particularly in the area of improving the health infrastructure in the rural areas. For rural women of reproductive age, having health facilities closer to them is key, and of course, ensuring the provision of quality services for communities’ good health is essential.

I think our programmes, working with development partners should really continue focusing on addressing biases that affect accessibility to sexual and reproductive health and rights services for all women and men, by creating demand for various services that can support their wellbeing.

The question of integrating health services in primary healthcare delivery is critical for poor rural communities and this should be guided by the principles of community involvement, equitable distribution, disease prevention, appropriate technology and a multi-sectoral approach.

Q: Let’s look at the education sector…In your view, what was the response of the budget to the effects of the coronavirus and the need to increase the number of women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics?

Hon Susan Lyimo:

As a teacher by profession and also a shadow minister for education, I think an increase to the budget for education was critical considering how the sector was severely affected by the coronavirus, looking at how the pandemic may have negatively impacted girls when schools were temporarily closed.

We know that at the height of Covid-19, the burden of domestic work, which is not equally shared, increased on women and girls, while their vulnerability to gender-based violence also increased due to mobility restrictions and difficulties in reporting cases, in some instances.

These factors contribute to the need to ensure that students, and in particular girls, are supported to recover from the lost time. Looking at how we are increasing the number of women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), there is some notable progress.

We, however, need to continue investing in quality education and focus on having more girls doing science and math subjects at secondary school level, especially in the rural areas, to improve the numbers at tertiary level.

I think our national programmes should continue to innovate the education system and make it gender-responsive to deal with some of the challenges that affect the learning outcomes among girls and to also address issues related to menstrual hygiene management in schools.

One of the strategies I applaud is how the government is promoting the establishment of girls’ schools to help promote girls’ education. The Tanzania Women Parliamentary Group (TWPG) picked on the idea and established the Bunge Girls’ High School which will initially enroll 160 girls in Dodoma.

We would like to tie promoting girls’ education with motivating them to become future leaders. These girls will help us to establish platforms that can link women parliamentarians with primary and high school girls to enable early planting of the seeds of leadership in them.

Hon Lolesia Bukwimba:

There are deliberate efforts by the government to continue encouraging girls to complete their tertiary education and one of the critical strategies that should be commended is free primary and secondary education in all public schools.

The education sector is putting its money into good use through the development of infrastructure, which include electrification programmes in rural schools, building girls’ schools and dormitories and science laboratories to improve the quality of learning.

The infrastructure-development drive is also helping to ensure girls do not walk long distances to school and encourage them to concentrate on their studies. Free education and the creation of facilities that are friendly to girls is contributing to efforts aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies and keeping girls in school until they complete their tertiary studies.

For example, in my constituency, people now understand the importance of educating girls. President John Pombe Magufuli, in his speech during the closing of parliament, spoke of the need for a democracy that is inclusive of women, emphasising the importance of ensuring women and girls have the capacity to take up leadership positions.

Q: Let’s talk about the agriculture sector and how we saw the budget linking the sector with the vision of industrialization. Where do women fit in the bigger picture?

Hon Susan Lyimo:

More than 60-per cent of women are key actors in the agri-food systems maintaining household food security, working in fisheries, and as crop and livestock producers, in food processing as traders and wage workers.

But let’s look at how we can ensure that agricultural programmes are promoting women’s meaningful participation in the sector. It is a fact that if we would like to make a greater impact in the area of women’s economic empowerment.

We need to increase the capacity of women in the agricultural sector in terms of imparting agricultural production knowledge, improving their access to finance for mechanised farm production and the promotion of agribusinesses, and improve land ownership.

Agricultural programmes should work in collaboration with different partners to support women to penetrate male-dominated spaces within the agriculture value chain, in areas such as manufacturing.

Banks such as the Tanzania Agriculture Bank should be encouraged to provide low-interest loans to women groups in the form of capital equipment as part of enhancing and encouraging women participation in both lower, mid and upper streams of the value chain.

Hon Lolesia Bukwimba:

The government has committed to giving attention to the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Development Programme II (ASDP II), which will work to improve market infrastructure and irrigation, enhancing access to agricultural inputs and extension services, and improving farmers’ cooperative unions such as cooperative payment systems.

We should ensure that women who are the backbone of food production in Tanzania also benefit immensely through this plan. Women are ready for support that can spur their participation beyond being producers.

Looking at the challenges affecting the status of women in this sector, we need to ensure efforts to engender the Agriculture Policy are finalised and operationalised to support sustainable development and inclusivity in the sector.

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