Women and the Budget: Assessing Progress

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


21 February 2001

Chairperson: Ms P Govender

Documents handed out:
Extracts from various documents showing the commitment government has made to "gendering" the budget: see
Womensnet website
Budget review case studies 1999

Government has made specific commitments in relation to "gendering" the budget. The Committee intends to ask the Finance Ministry for a progress report

The Committee divided into three task teams to discuss the issues of HIV/AIDS, poverty alleviation and violence against women. They gave the following reports:
HIV/AIDS should be Government's number one spending priority. Government must work with NGOs to combat HIV/AIDS. Access to services is crucial and must be ensured.
Poverty alleviation requires that attention be given to socio-political empowerment as well as to the economic empowerment of women. There must be a focus on urban renewal.
Violence against women - accessibility of services to women is very important. There must be co-ordination between departments (such as Justice and Safety and Security) to ensure grassroots delivery.

The Chairperson noted that it is not acceptable for members to leave these committee meetings early so that they can attend other meetings. This committee must be seen as a priority in order for it to function well.

Ms Botha (ANC) noted that it is important to attend other meetings because they bring issues from the other committees and raise them in this committee.

The Chairperson agreed that the other committees are important but there is an ongoing scheduling battle. Members must attain a balance in attending the different committees.

Assessment of Progress
The important questions before the Committee were:
· ''What has Parliament done in terms of women and the budget''?
· "What has happened between 1994 and now?"
Government has made various commitments in the past and the Committee wants to establish what progress has been made with regard to these commitments. [All previous committee reports are available on the Womensnet internet site.

The Committee perused certain documents where Government has made commitments with regard to improving the quality of life of women:
Budget Review case studies 1999: This document is an excerpt from the Budget Review itself. Seven Ministries had started to look at issues around engendering the Budget. For example, the Water Department had set a target for the number of jobs to be given to rural women plus providing flexible work-time to women with children.

Presidential Job Summit 1998: Here government had made a commitment dealing specifically with women and employment.

Cabinet endorses post-Beijing commitments: The Committee intends to meet with the Office of the Status of Women in the President's Office to see who is responsible for these commitments.

Commitments by Finance to engender the budget and macroeconomic policy: There were commitments in the 1996 budget on matters such as providing a statistical database to provide information on the impact of expenditures disaggregated by gender. There was also a commitment on developing a performance review mechanism to evaluate progress and report to Parliament. The committee wants to know what progress has been made in these areas.

Extract from the Women's Budget:
The Women's Budget looks at the commitments government made and what has happened to date. The Women's Budget Initiative was started by this Committee, together with IDASA and another NGO. The reports analyse each department's budget and it is published by IDASA as the Women's Budget Reports. The Committee is the Parliamentary partner to this project. The questions used for analysis are:
- how much is to be spent and on what?
- how are services to be delivered?
- how does possible expenditure relate to provision by business organisations, voluntary organisations and community groups?
- how does possible expenditure relate to the informal and unpaid provision of services through households and family networks?
- how can poor women access more time, better nutrition, better health, and better skills?
- what are the implicit assumptions regarding the way society is organised, and what are the implications of this for those who do not conform to the norm?
- who will benefit from public sector employment?
- who is going to benefit in terms of access to services?

Last year the Committee requested some research from the Department of Finance which will be provided next week. The specified research was issue briefings (actual analysis of the figures) on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, specifically in relation to employment, national and provincial expenditure trends, revenue and trade in relation to gender over the past five years.

The Committee broke into its three task teams (HIV/AIDS, poverty and violence against women). The Chairperson instructed them to examine government's commitments in terms of these particular areas. The Committee reconvened half an hour later for report-backs from the task teams.

The Chairperson noted that the point of having task teams is so that work can be ongoing between Committee meetings. The task teams must guide the Committee on how it responds to issues.

1) HIV/AIDS Task Team
This task team analysed the Finance Ministry's commitment to gender issues bearing in mind the government is a signatory to CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) and the Beijing Platform for Action. They concluded that there is very little or no focus on HIV/AIDS.

An HIV/AIDS survey was done between 1994 and1997 looking at the number of pregnant women with HIV. However such a study does not reflect the entire population of women. Further, this survey is now old. Since the number of AIDS victims has increased rapidly, the team is concerned about the accuracy of these figures.

The team does not know what is in store in the 2001 Budget. They think that the number one priority spending should be HIV/AIDS. The programs which are currently in place must also continue. There should be a special focus on care for HIV/AIDS sufferers and HIV/AIDS orphans by means of Non-government Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) must assist government. The team is unhappy with the situation where NGOs who receive government funding do not do enough work and are merely using the funds to enrich themselves. There should be monitoring by this Committee through the Office of the Status of Women in the President's office. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts should also be involved.

There must also be access to services - in rural areas this is a real problem. To overcome this problem, services have to be brought closer to women by means of mobile clinics, for example, or some kind of door-to-door visit.

2) The Poverty Task Team
This team looked at the Welfare section of the Budget Review extract. It believes that attention should be given to the socio-political empowerment of women as well as economic empowerment. They suggest that the Office of the Status of Women needs to brief the Committee on how the social upliftment of women in poverty is being addressed since this is currently unclear in terms of welfare, job creation, urban renewal and so forth. The budget has not focused sufficiently on poverty alleviation.

3) The Violence Against Women Task Team
Important departments in the fight against violence against women are Justice, Health and Safety and Security. Services to women must be accessible. Ensuring accessibility means improving the judiciary. Further, there has to be co-ordination amongst departments. The budget focus must be on the appointment and training of investigators. It was also noted that implementation of legislation is too slow. There must be funds for clinics and health education centres. Government institutions need to co-ordinate with NGOs in dealing with violence against women: a focus on government-private partnerships. There is also a lack of co-ordination amongst district surgeons. The team suggests hearings with the SAPS on grassroots delivery. There must also be a focus on women's empowerment.

Ms Camerer (NNP) asked if there would be a briefing from the Finance Ministry.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee will get the Finance Ministry to come before them to respond to specific questions. She noted that they have put all of government's commitments on the Womensnet site. The site also contains information as to how far government has come in terms of its commitments.

Ms Botha (ANC) noted that the last time Ms Ramos was before the Committee she had said that "gendering" the budget starts with the departments first. Thus departmental budgets are the budgets which must be examined. She suggested that it would be a good idea for the Committee to learn exactly what to look for in such budgets before they hold hearings.

Ms Mahomed (ANC) agreed that they must first train themselves. She asked if there was one particular document which contained a measurement of performance from 1994 to 1999.

The Chairperson replied that in the 1996 Budget Speech, government committed itself to developing this but it does not have one.

Ms Botha asked how the research on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (which the Committee had requested from the Finance Ministry) would help them.

The Chairperson replied that the issue briefs would show them how spending in Welfare, Education and Health has increased or decreased over the years. It will give them information on infrastructure spending. There will also be information on employment. The revenue/trade as linked to gender research will show the impact of trade agreements. They will also receive information on the overall trends of national and provincial expenditure. This information is due before the Committee meets again next week. Other research the Committee has requested is related to violence against women and the Budget. This will provide information on the costing of the Domestic Violence Act, for example.

The Committee agreed that:
- it will first have a training session to train itself on what to look for in the budget
- it will then have a hearing with the Finance Ministry
- followed by public hearings

Ms Mahomed noted that people in Bangladesh have made impressive inroads into poverty. If there were enough money in the Committee's budget it would be worthwhile to visit that area.

Ms September (ANC) replied that there are many African examples of how women deal with poverty, for example, in the Maputo Corridor. She suggested that they rather take on board these examples.

The Chairperson noted that in the six years of the Committee's existence there has only been one visit outside of South Africa. She would like to hold hearings in rural areas this year most probably during the constituency period in April/May.

The meeting was adjourned.


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