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Nigeria and poor gender-based budgeting records

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PHOTO: Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey

The nation’s record of tardy budgeting process is replete with a series of violations. These can be seen from the neglect of the fiscal laws that govern the processes and provisions, leading to routine generic items in the development plans, as well as questionable allocations to questionable budget heads.

But from policy standpoint, the nation’s yearly fiscal document has also been lacking the necessary ingredient to specifically caterer to needs of gender-related issues, and as such, appears to be generalised, irrespective of inherent peculiarities. It is the reverse of the globally accepted norms of gender responsive budgeting.

By gender responsive budgeting or gender-based budgeting, it is one that works for everyone- women, men, girls and boys, by ensuring gender-equitable distributions of resources and by contributing to equal opportunities for all.

It is not creating separate budget or looking for additional resources for women and girls or even for any other group, rather it tends to improve transparency, participation and gender analysis of national budgets.

For instance, a gender budget for a Ministry, Department and Agency should show how allocation of total budget is made and how such allocation benefits women and men, girls and boys in a given society.

“Our budget today is not with gender concerns, but a general one that assumes that everyone is carried along, when many are left behind. Worse still, when the budget performance does not matter.

“If a Nigerian mother would die of a matter that mere $20 or $30 could save her from, it means the country is not fulfilling its obligations on right to life. This is a typical case of lack of gender-based budgeting,” the Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, said.

At the Capacity Building Workshop on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB), convened by CSJ, with the support of the European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative, in Abuja, participants drawn from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Women’s Groups, the Media and Key Populations from Spotlight’s Focal States of Adamawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Sokoto, were shown key protocols, instruments and laws that Nigeria ratified but failed to implement.

The workshop was convened to build the capacity of the stakeholders on GRB in the context of the overwhelming need to eradicate Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), Harmful Practices (HP) and to promote the Sexual and Reproductive Health/Rights (SRHR) of women and girls. It also sought to improve the skills of participants for interventions in the preparation, passage, monitoring of implementation, reporting, evaluation and audit of Federal, State and Local government budgets from the gender perspective.

Former House of Representatives member, Nkoyo Toyo, citing Nigeria’s poor global ranking of 118, out of 142 economies, at the workshop, said the country cannot afford to continue in such pitiable routine.

Nkoyo said it is a show of insensitivity that while few have, the majority are in abject want due to widening inequality, even as the enactment of the gender-based opportunity Act has been lingering at the national level.

According to her, even when budgetary provisions are made towards gender-based programmes, poor implementations in terms of financial commitments and associated costs tend to leave little for the actual project.

She described the country’s position on gender responsiveness as pervasive to women’s rights and now worse when unfolding events tend to show that the country may be tolerating it too, despite ratifying laws against such.

The former lawmaker noted that the foregoing has bred wider gender inequality in the country, which remained huge against women on areas of domestic violence, poor education and poor opportunity for the girl-child, discrimination and lack of economic empowerment, among others.

The Executive Director, Global Rights, Biodun Baiyewu, called on government to wake up to its duty of gender-based responsive budgeting for equality.

“The truth is that women are more susceptible to gender-based violence and Nigeria’s rate is very high. First, we must end impunity and invest massively in protecting victims, but more importantly, ensuring that the issue of gender inequality does not happen in the first place.

The move, of course, will have budgetary implications, not just mere wishful thinking. Government is not blame-free.

“I have also argued it severally that Nigeria’s challenge is not much about corruption, but the impunity. People still get away with perpetrating violence and corruption. They mismanage budget and leave people to reel under the consequences of their irresponsible actions,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Ifeoma Anagbogu, agreed that a gender responsive budget incorporates gender equality principles into all stages of the national budget process.

According to her, the process will ascertain differences in access, opportunities and rights for all to ensure that negative gender gaps in specific development spheres are addressed.

But she pointed out that the major challenge inhibiting the full realisation of gender responsive budgeting remains non-sustainability of established initiatives and programmes.

“Globally, the reasons for advocating gender responsive budgeting is the recognition that women, men, girls and boys have very different practical and strategic needs and priorities.

“Most times, those of the women remain under-represented in public life, which implies that most government policies, including economic policy, may not take their needs and priorities into account,” she said.

GRB framework
Contextually, GRB is premised on Nigeria’s national and international obligations under a multiplicity of standards to respect, protect and fulfill the fundamental rights and freedom of women and girls from violence, inhuman and degrading treatment and to guarantee their dignity and personhood.

The standards include the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), National Gender Policy, Child Rights Act, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, National Policy on the Elimination of FGM/C, Strategy to End Child Marriage, Sexual Harassment Policy, Gender and Equal Opportunities Policy, Universal Basic Education Act/National Policy on Basic Education, Maternal and Reproductive Health Policies.

The obligation to respect forbids all tiers of government from taking steps that violate existing and guaranteed rights. The obligation to protect mandates the state to take steps to ensure that third parties do not violate the rights of women to human dignity and freedom from violence. The obligation to fulfil requires concrete and targeted administrative, legislative, judicial and budgetary measures to practically fulfil the rights of women and girls to freedom from violence.

SGBV and VAWG manifests in several dimensions and these include domestic violence, forced sexual activities by a sexual partner and rape. Harmful practices manifestations including: female genital mutilation; early marriage and teenage motherhood; as well as widow’s maltreatment.

Recently, the World Bank Group had said the women, which is half of the world’s population, would need improved regulatory environment and legal rights to realise their potential and contribute to economic growth and development.

The World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said legal rights for women are both the right thing to do and good from an economic perspective.

“When women can move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets, they are more likely to join the workforce and help strengthen their country’s economies.

“We stand ready to help until every woman can move through her life without facing legal barriers to her success,” he said.

Extant budgeting practices at the Federal, State and Local government levels do not mainstream gender in the preparation, approval, implementation, monitoring, reporting, evaluation and audit of the budget.

Resolutions
The participants therefore, resolved that governments should mainstream gender sensitivity in all stages of the budgeting cycle from preparation, passage and approval, monitoring and reporting, evaluation and audit.

This should be facilitated by the gathering and analysis of relevant gender disaggregated data by the National Bureau of Statistics and other data gathering agencies.

In the communique at the end of the workshop, resolutions were also reached that Nigeria should activate its law enforcement mechanisms and rule of law institutions for the protection of the rights of women to freedom from violence.

“This will involve training and capacity building, increased budgetary provisions accompanied by full releases and utilization of appropriated funds.

“The Audit Reform Bill currently pending in the National Assembly should specifically include gender audit as one of the audits to be carried out by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

“Governments should deploy the maximum of available resources for the protection of women from violence. This should not be limited to financial resources, but should include human, information, technology and ecological resources.

“Civil society should start actively engaging the budgeting process from the gender perspective at the Federal, State and Local government levels. This should include the engagement of the relevant MDAs and their budgeting frameworks starting from the medium-term sector strategies.

“The preparation and dissemination of a Gender Budget Statement by the civil society, in collaboration with relevant agencies of government for the year 2021 budget cycle, should be a good starting point for gender responsive budgeting.

“All standards on the eradication of SGBV, VAWG, HP and the promotion of the SRHR of women and girls should be costed and an implementation framework drawn up,” the communique reads.

The nation’s record of tardy budgeting process is replete with series of violations. These can be seen from the neglect of the fiscal laws that govern the processes and provisions, leading to routine generic items in the development plans, as well as questionable allocations to questionable budget heads.

But from policy standpoint, the nation’s yearly fiscal document has also been lacking the necessary ingredient to specifically caterer to needs of gender-related issues, and as such, appears to be generalised, irrespective of inherent peculiarities. It is the reverse of the globally accepted norms of gender responsive budgeting.

By gender responsive budgeting or gender-based budgeting, it is one that works for everyone- women, men, girls and boys, by ensuring gender-equitable distributions of resources and by contributing to equal opportunities for all.
It is not creating separate budget or looking for additional resources for women and girls or even for any other group, rather it tends to improve transparency, participation and gender analysis of national budgets.

For instance, a gender budget for a Ministry, Department and Agency should show how allocation of total budget is made and how such allocation benefits women and men, girls and boys in a given society.

“Our budget today is not with gender concerns, but a general one that assumes that everyone is carried along, when many are left behind. Worse still, when the budget performance does not matter.

“If a Nigerian mother would die of a matter that mere $20 or $30 could save her from, it means the country is not fulfilling its obligations on right to life. This is a typical case of lack of gender-based budgeting,” the Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, said.

At the Capacity Building Workshop on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB), convened by CSJ, with the support of the European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative, in Abuja, participants drawn from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Women’s Groups, the Media and Key Populations from Spotlight’s Focal States of Adamawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Sokoto, were shown key protocols, instruments and laws that Nigeria ratified but failed to implement.

The workshop was convened to build the capacity of the stakeholders on GRB in the context of the overwhelming need to eradicate Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), Harmful Practices (HP) and to promote the Sexual and Reproductive Health/Rights (SRHR) of women and girls. It also sought to improve the skills of participants for interventions in the preparation, passage, monitoring of implementation, reporting, evaluation and audit of Federal, State and Local government budgets from the gender perspective.

Former House of Representatives member, Nkoyo Toyo, citing Nigeria’s poor global ranking of 118, out of 142 economies, at the workshop, said the country cannot afford to continue in such pitiable routine.

Nkoyo said it is a show of insensitivity that while few have, the majority are in abject want due to widening inequality, even as the enactment of the gender-based opportunity Act has been lingering at the national level.

According to her, even when budgetary provisions are made towards gender-based programmes, poor implementations in terms of financial commitments and associated costs tend to leave little for the actual project.

She described the country’s position on gender responsiveness as pervasive to women’s rights and now worse when unfolding events tend to show that the country may be tolerating it too, despite ratifying laws against such.

The former lawmaker noted that the foregoing has bred wider gender inequality in the country, which remained huge against women on areas of domestic violence, poor education and poor opportunity for the girl-child, discrimination and lack of economic empowerment, among others.

The Executive Director, Global Rights, Biodun Baiyewu, called on government to wake up to its duty of gender-based responsive budgeting for equality.

“The truth is that women are more susceptible to gender-based violence and Nigeria’s rate is very high. First, we must end impunity and invest massively in protecting victims, but more importantly, ensuring that the issue of gender inequality does not happen in the first place.

The move, of course, will have budgetary implications, not just mere wishful thinking. Government is not blame-free.

“I have also argued it severally that Nigeria’s challenge is not much about corruption, but the impunity. People still get away with perpetrating violence and corruption. They mismanage budget and leave people to reel under the consequences of their irresponsible actions,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Ifeoma Anagbogu, agreed that a gender responsive budget incorporates gender equality principles into all stages of the national budget process.

According to her, the process will ascertain differences in access, opportunities and rights for all to ensure that negative gender gaps in specific development spheres are addressed.

But she pointed out that the major challenge inhibiting the full realisation of gender responsive budgeting remains non-sustainability of established initiatives and programmes.

“Globally, the reasons for advocating gender responsive budgeting is the recognition that women, men, girls and boys have very different practical and strategic needs and priorities.

“Most times, those of the women remain under-represented in public life, which implies that most government policies, including economic policy, may not take their needs and priorities into account,” she said.


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