Issue Number 41 • October 2013
Women to influence gender responsive budgeting …By Faith Muiruri
he Kenya Women Parliamentar y Association (KEWOPA) plans to introduce a model that incorporates a gender equality perspective into the budgeting process. The model not only seeks to bridge persistent inequalities between women and men but also help to facilitate development by integrating gender issues into macroeconomic policy and budgets. According Priscilla Nyokabi, a member of KEWOPA and the Women Representative Nyeri County, the model is currently a success in Uganda where female members of Parliament and some male affiliate members have adopted a bi-partisan approach that has helped to influence the national budget to cater for gender perspectives.
Approach “The initiative is a success in Uganda and has helped to influence the national budget to cater for gender perspectives,” said Nyokabi. The Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) has been funded by the Government as well as development partners to drive the initiative. Speaking during a Gender Forum organised by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation dubbed Constructing Political Spaces: Making Quotas Work, Nyokabi noted that the model will help women parliamentarians address issues such as water and health which are pertinent when addressing inequalities in society. “We have requested the Presidency and Executive to consider funding KEWOPA to roll out the model,” she said. According to Nyokabi, KEWOPA will soon convene a series of consultative forums where women will be given an opportunity to push for genderspecific allocations. “The model does not involve creating separate budgets for women and girls, or simply increasing specific budget allocations directed to these groups. Instead, it involves collecting budget revenues and allocating expenditures that address persistent inequalities between women and girls as well as men and boys,” said Nyokabi who is also the vice chair of the Legal Affairs Committee in the National Assembly.
Perspective She noted that Gender Responsive Budgeting is a system that incorporates a gender equality perspective into the budgeting process and policies that underpin it in order to promote equality between women and men. The initiative is a boost to women representatives following widespread criticism that the increased number of women’s participation has not translated into influence. However, Nyokabi noted that the initiative will require support across
the board because currently the budget committee in the National Assembly comprises of only six women out of the 51 members. At the same time, she revealed that women representatives have worked on affirmative action Social Development Fund Bill to allow them to respond to development roles that have been ignored in the counties such as the issue of alcohol and drug abuse, adult education and light industries. She noted that women representation in the country remains low in comparison to other countries within the East African region. Rwanda leads the region and the world with 64 per cent representation, Tanzania 47, Uganda 35 with Kenya lagging behind at less than 20 per cent. “A society develops better and moves forward when led by both men and women. Our Kenyan society needs to do more to appreciate women’s leadership. There is still need for concentration and funding of women representation in high levels of decision making,” said Nyokabi adding “women MPs should be recognised, encouraged and supported”.
Legislation Article 27 (8) states that “The state shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” This provision is about affirmative action for women, and has been broadened to include persons living with disability, youth, elderly as well as other minority and marginalised groups. Affirmative action has seen the rise of representation of women in parliament from 10 per cent in the last parliament to 20 per cent in the current
Parliament in session: Women parliamentarians plan to introduce a model that seeks to bridge persistent inequalities between men and women. Picture: Courtesy parliament. This provision is meant to fill the gender gap, which is very pervasive mostly in the public sphere. According to Nyokabi, despite women making up more than half the population of Kenya, they are still in the periphery when it comes to participating in political leadership and decision making process. “This has largely been blamed on retrogressive cultural practices, gender stereotyping, propaganda, lack of resources, electoral violence, lack of mentorship in political engagement, and poor media visibility,” she explained. At the moment, only 30 nations globally have been able to reach the 30 per cent women representation in parliament threshold, achieved through affirmative action. This creates space to allow more women to participate equitably in matters governance and policy. Affirmative action spurs democracy and opens up spaces for different voices to be heard. In Kenya, for instance, the affir-
mative action motion was first moved in 1997 by Phoebe Asiyo but was defeated. However, gains were made with the emergence of the new Constitution in 2010. This happened after many decades of clamouring for a new Constitution that would be all-inclusive to ensure equal participation by all members of society. In addition to the gains made in the women’s movement, affirmative action is a positive step in the right direction and with time, Kenya will be able to reach the critical mass of women required to create a balance between women and men, in the course of performing their defined roles. Speaking at the forum, Joy Mukanyange from Rwanda attributed the large numbers of women in leadership positions to the fact that affirmative action has been embraced by the ruling party where 64 per cent of MPs are women. On the other hand Bintu Jalia, a Member of Parliament from Uganda cited the constitutional provision on
"The initiative will require support across the board because currently the budget committee in the National Assembly comprises of only six women out of the 51 members." Priscilla Nyokabi
special district seats for women elected through universal suffrage which has helped to increase the number of women in Uganda’s parliament. This is similar to the position with the county MPs or women representatives in Kenya. “Women MPs in Uganda have also made sure all policies, bills and laws entrench gender perspectives,” Jalia said. She noted that several amendments in the constitution have seen the inclusion of the youth as a group that needs recognition.
Action In South Sudan, affirmative action was the brainchild of the late Dr John Garang who advocated for the inclusion of 25 per cent of women in any position of influence. Nyayang Lok, an MP from South Sudan told the forum that the youth have also been incorporated in political parties at all levels as an entry point into leadership. In Burundi, the involvement of women in the civil war led to inclusion of affirmative action in Governance. Jeannette Ntiranyibagira said that the country has 37 per cent women representation in government and the Women’s League is strong and meets regularly to push for the women’s agenda. Somaliland, a former British protectorate on the other hand, has enjoyed peace unlike her sister Somalia. However, Sadia Musse Ahmed said women representation remains low at 13 per cent with only four holding ministerial positions. She noted the women’s voice is respected in parliament and cited the last elections where ten young women were elected.