ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Budget: A Quick Look through a 'Gender Lens'

This paper examines the union budget 2001-2002 with a focus on its implications for women's empowerment. Changes in patterns of allocations to various women-specific schemes as well as to schemes of indirect benefit to women have been analysed. This preliminary analysis suggests that the standard perception of women's roles continues to be as mothers and caregivers, and has undergone little change. Investment priorities seem to reinforce this image, and do not reflect a commitment to women's empowerment.

The issue of women's unequal access to economic resources was one of the earliest rallying points for the global women's movement. Organised struggles and determined advocacy by women's groups ensured that this issue came up at the Third International Conference on Women at Nairobi in 1985. However, efforts to pressurise governments to make unambiguous and specific commitments on the issue of providing adequate resources for advancement of women were far less successful. Generous resolutions made at each UN conference remained unfulfilled and forgotten until the next such occasion, when 'lack of resources' was trotted out as an acceptable excuse for inaction. The regularity of this experience led to a demand at Beijing in 1995 for the UN to take a non-negotiable stand on the issue. Paragraph 345 of the Beijing Platform for Action responds to this concern:

Financial and human resources have generally been insufficient for the advancement of women. This has contributed to the slow progress to date in implementing the Nairobi forward-looking strategies for the advancement of women. Full and effective implementation of the Platform for Action, including the relevant commitments made at previous United Nations' summits and conferences, will require a political commitment to make available human and financial resources for the empowerment of women. This will require the integration of a gender perspective in budgetary decisions on policies and programmes, as well as the adequate financing of specific programmes for securing equality between women and men.1

Five years later, reporting on the progress of implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action, the government of India earned the appreciation of the committee on the status of women for making specific resource commitments in critical areas where many other countries were speaking in vague generalities. Consider the issue of allocation of national resources for women's empowerment. Where China would not go further than saying that "resources would be gradually increased" and the government of Bangladesh stated its intention to "make resources available for women in all sectors", the government of India made some strong statements:

Additional resources for expanding and strengthening existing institutions and mechanisms for women's development and empowerment will be provided. The budgets for the department of women and child development will be enhanced. Funds will be earmarked in the budgets of ministries/departments for implementing women's development programmes in different sectors like education, health, welfare, rural development, urban development, labour, agriculture, industry, science and technology, etc. A synergic modality of resource mobilisation will ensure flow of funds and related services from banking/financial institutions, corporate bodies and community organisations at the grass roots levels.2

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