As the details and meaning of the 2012/ 2013 South African budget tabled earlier this week by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is digested by media, business and individuals alike, there’s no doubt that its commendable points will be praised, many gaps pointed out, and questions raised. Yet, in the year 2012, when we’ve seen a decade-old global movement towards gendered budgets, and increasing recognition of how government spending and fiscal policies affect women and men, girls and boys, differently - it comes as a great surprise that this budget seems to be glaringly missing a gender lens.
It’s a bit ironic that the same day saw the launch of the Women and Budget Initiative, a partnership between the Motsepe Foundation, NGOs, and the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities. Described as “an innovative platform whereby government ministers, women leaders in business and NGOs come together to discuss the impact of the National Budget on South African women in rural and urban communities,” the initiative has the ultimate goal of promoting and supporting the work that both private and public sectors are doing to achieve gender equality.
Indeed, there was only one specific mention of women in the speech, “Our financial institutions should also recognise the important role of women in our economy.” Like much of the rest of the financial visioning, how or in what way they should do so, is left up in the air.
The clear commitment to job creation, especially for youth, is commendable, yet no clear targets are given, and there is no mention of how such initiatives will improve the particularly economic vulnerability of women in the country. There is mention of increased support for the Expanded Public Works Programme, yet we worry that this type of temporary employment pushes women further into the same sort of cycles of insecure and undervalued work that perpetuates gender inequality.
As well, the Minister has failed to make mention of the NGO sector that is both a major employer in the country, and plays such an important role in the actual delivery of vital social service. Given the important role that such organisations play in the national economy, and in assisting those who are most vulnerable and impoverished, it also seems a glaring omission. At POWA, we see firsthand the toll that economic injustice can have on women and families; organisations such as ourselves need to be given high consideration when it comes to spending.
In opening his speech, Mr Gordhan mentioned the very compelling analogy that we must all be part of writing a South African story about building modern infrastructure, a vibrant economy, a decent quality of life for all, reduced poverty, and decent employment opportunities.
We’re just not convinced that the government has yet recognised that our stories are not all written from the same perspective.
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA).