‘Scrutinise budget with gender lens’

LEGISLATORS have been urged to scrutinise the 2019 National Budget to ensure it addresses the economic, social and political costs of gender inequalities in the country.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women, Gender and Community Affairs, Chido Madiwa yesterday told NewsDay that during debate on the 2019 budget, legislators need to be sensitive and analyse the budget, looking at whether all line ministries were mainstreaming gender issues in their allocations.

Madiwa said re-alignment of marriage laws, legislation on sexual harassment, and other legislation that deal with critical gender issues, need to be prioritised in the 2019 budget allocations.

“MPs’ role during the budget debate is to monitor and look at how gender is mainstreamed in the budget process. For example, how the budget prioritises health issues for women and even agriculture — looking at how equipment is distributed to men and women in farming, and for instance, if the tractors bought are ideal for women,” Madiwa said.

“Re-alignment of laws is pivotal for women, for example, looking at marriage laws which, at the moment, are conflicting to the extent that the customary laws are silent on the age at which a girl can get married (16 or 18 years), when the Constitution actually stipulates it at 18 years,” she said.

Madiwa said the budget needs to prioritise issues of training of law enforcement agents on how to deal with gender-based violence, which mostly affects women.

She said the health sector must be adequately financed, particularly areas dealing with reproductive health, which includes access to sanitary wear by girls and cancers financing (cervical cancer among women and prostate cancer among men), which impact on reproductive health.

“Government must do something about access to sanitary wear by girls and free screening and treatment of cervical cancer, just like what they do with tuberculosis treatment because giving birth is national service done by women. There is need to ensure zero maternal, infant and child mortality rates. There is also need for access to drugs,” Madiwa said.

Women are also “health workers” in their families where, very often, they act as caregivers to people suffering from HIV, TB, cancer and other ailments.

Madiwa said hospitals and clinics must be close to women, particularly rural women, who have to travel very long distances to access medical care.

“There is need for MPs to ensure that the 2019 budget reduces the burden of disease and care, which often falls on women, for instance, cholera. Women also bear the burden of travelling long distances to access clean water and to fetch firewood,” she said.

The Women Affairs and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry was allocated $44 million in the 2019 budget.

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