By Henry Uche, Lagos
Needs-based budgeting across government was the discourse over the weekend at an event organised by Yiaga Africa as part of implementing the Spotlight Initiative project of the European Union and the United Nations.
With the theme “Enhancing Gender-Responsive Budgeting (Women & Girl Child in focus)”, the forum made up of CSOs, NGOs, representatives from MDAs at both federal and States level, experts observed with dismay that not only had a meagre/not well-tailored budget been appropriated in the past for people with disabilities and other challenges, but monitoring, implementation, accountability, and performance evaluation have been neglected- leaving the supposed beneficiaries to wallow in undue pains.
For people to really receive in real term what is appropriate to them as and when due, CSOs and NGOs, activists, human rights defenders, and other interested individuals were charged to follow the budget from the point of entry to the letter, using the Freedom of Information Act.
The forum advised that concerned persons in the Nigerian project should not be hasty to attack the federal government but should beam their searchlight on the state and local government and demand accountability and must note that Gender-Responsive Budgeting was not targeted at women and girl child, but boys and people living with disabilities.
‘We need to get involved in the budgeting value chain by tracking, monitoring and doing performance evaluation,’ the groups advised. They noted that ‘most MDAs do not make the contents of their websites clear for Public use and in some cases, printed words were left blurred while some projects had no code numbers and some not specific.’
MDAs were urged to be specific and very clear when preparing budgets and ensure that every budget is well-tailored to meet needs, while their websites are updated pronto to avoid the devastating effect of using wrong figures and letters.
They also called on state governors to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, according to their peculiarities and ensure strict implementation.
‘There is need for a coordinated coalition against/gender-based Violence. We deserve a society where people will live their lives Free of Violence. The essence of Gender-Responsive Budgeting does not translate to asking for an equal budget for both men and women, rather it is geared towards ensuring that both men and women have been denied due rights/privileges owing to certain negative conditions are defended.
‘The aim is to stop violence against anyone who is disadvantaged in any way, hence the reality of rape and gender-based violence makes it difficult for victims to survive in Nigeria as it’s today while violators and abusers walk freely.’
Speaking on “Understanding Gender-Responsive Budgeting & the implications for Relevant MDAs in Nigeria”, Dr Terfa Abraham from National Institute for Legislative & Democratic Studies (NILDS) reiterated that the message behind the theme was ‘budgeting for those who may be ordinarily excluded from the budget if they are not targeted.’
According to him, these include girls, boys, victims of rape, persons with disabilities, the aged and elderly, children, and the vulnerable part of society. Ordinarily, non-gendered budgets will exclude them. For Instance, the budget will not account for women who are victims of flood ordinarily in a particular location unless it’s deliberately targeted.
Abraham added that ‘the government may provide classrooms chairs for school pupils but without providing chairs for students who are left-handed. So, if the government does not take cognisance of students who are left-handed, it would make a 100% chairs provision for students with the assumption that they are all right-handed.
‘Thus, such project has excluded the left handed students, which is wrong because the budget didn’t include them. More so, access to hospitals facilities is another thing. Many patients are in wheelchairs. Most hospitals have no provisions for patients in wheelchairs or supportive apparatuses in the design of the health facility. Most persons in wheelchairs cannot access certain services because the staircases were not designed to accommodate people/ patients with physical disabilities.
‘It is equally important to note that in gender-responsive budgeting, these set of people mentioned earlier should be carried along when preparing budgets that involve them. So, this top-down form of budgeting should be reversed (to become bottom-top) approach, to make the budgeting process inclusive.’
The economist added that gender-Responsive Budgeting points at specifics and peculiarities of the people which includes sex, culture, religion, demographic, geographic, social, and other specifics, considered in the budget process.
While analysing Reports of 2019-2021 Budget (Appropriation Act) of relevant MDAs on Gender, Sexual Gender-Based Violence and VAPP implementation, he called for central coordination to monitor projects budgeted for among MDAs for accountability sake.
He also recommended a bill for an Act to harmonise gender-responsive projects that are targeted at addressing rape and victims of sexual violence.
‘Nigeria is new in Gender-Responsive Budgeting space in terms of actions. So, we need budget items for Gender-Based projects that should be followed to the letter.
‘Is there a budget to address Violence against elders, what about female journalists who may not carry out their Statutory job for fear of sexual violence? Every MDA should ensure gender-specific projects in their budget and projects and must be clear and implemented.
‘Every MDA should have a gender desk, and an updated register for vulnerable people for proper planning, policy design and sound decisions and to avoid any form of sharp practices.
‘While CSOs and NGOs should step up their games and engage the government when and where necessary especially when some MDAs fail to update their website, or where hard copy documents are not specific nor clear enough for use. The message is whatever is pronounced, written and budgeted to be done, must be seen to be done accordingly and accounted for,’ he stated.