ZWRCN Trains Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Gender Responsive budgeting
On the 23rd and 24th of September 2017, with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB), The Parliament of Zimbabwe hosted a gender budgeting sensitising workshop for about 35 Parliamentarians who lead different Parliamentary Portfolio Committees. The training workshop was held in Bulawayo and was facilitated by the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN). This two day workshop focused on imparting skills and knowledge to Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on mainstreaming gender in their budget oversight mandate in particular, and in promoting policies and laws that are responsive to gender equality in general. Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda Speaker of the National Assembly officiated the two day workshop was who in his opening remarks reiterated that it was very important for Members of Parliament to read and analyse Zimbabwean laws and policies as well as other international instruments in order to be eloquent in pushing motions in parliament as well as be able to be effective in their budget oversight mandate.
The outcome of the workshop was that Chairpersons of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees appreciated the importance of tracking and monitoring the budget with a gender lens, as well as analysing policies such as the gender policy and understanding the constitution and other international and regional instruments. The facilitator also highlighted the importance of the role played by MPs in evaluating the impact of the budget to check if there is any progress as far as gender equitable resource distribution is concerned.
Key Note Address by Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda Speaker of the National Assembly
Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda in his welcome remarks started off by recognising the presence of the Chairpersons of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees as well as the presence of the opposition Leader Dr T. Khupe, Honourable Members of Parliament, management and staff of Parliament as well as all development partners who were instrumental in ensuring that the workshop was a success. In his welcoming remarks he highlighted the importance of having such a capacity building workshop on gender responsive budgeting (GRB) for the PPCs given the fact that we are now in the Budget Season as a Nation. He mentioned that the workshop had come at an opportune time in the life of the 8th Parliament when processes around the budget making cycle are at the peak. These processes involve formulation, analysis and subsequent passing of the 2018 Zimbabwe National Budget.
Given the budget oversight role played by the Parliament, Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda expressed the importance of enhancing the knowledge and capacity of Parliamentarians by training them on gender responsive budgeting as this will capacitate them to effectively scrutinize the upcoming 2018 national budget proposals with a gender lens. This means that all citizens of Zimbabwe including men, women, boys and girls should be catered for in the 2018 national budget proposals that will be put forward by line ministries to ensure equitable distribution of national resources.
In his keynote address, Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda referred to international and regional conventions that require nations to adhere to policies that promote gender equality, including gender mainstreaming and gender responsive budgeting. Some of the international initiatives that he referred to include the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which required State parties to take appropriate measures to achieve socio-economic rights. He also alluded to the Abuja Declaration and the post 2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals that Zimbabwe has signed on to and ratified. Coming closer home, Zimbabwe has a well-structured gender policy that recognises the importance of gender responsive budgeting. The Speaker of the National Assembly clearly quoted the various sections of the instruments that he quoted and how they are relevant to the gender mainstreaming agenda. He therefore reminded the Members of Parliament present of the importance of collecting background information before attending any capacity building workshop. This will help them to understand the subject under discussion more objectively which will enable the MPs to participate intelligently during the workshop. This gave the Honourable Members of Parliament an appreciation of what it meant to analyse and understand the aforementioned instruments and how the knowledge can be applied in their legislative roles as Members of Parliament.
As he referred to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) he directly quoted goal number 5, which puts emphasis on “Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. To which he further questioned why emphasis is being placed on women and girls. He then explained that it was because women and girls are coming from a background where they have been marginalised and are still marginalised hence the need to focus on empowering them to make sure that they are at the same level with their male counterparts.
The Speaker of the National Assembly however expressed concern over the timing of the capacity building workshop. He indicated that given that according to the constitution the members are almost nearing the end of their tenure in Parliament given the upcoming elections which do not have a guarantee of who will be re-elected into the Parliament of Zimbabwe. He however stated that it Members of Parliament should not let this impede them from practising what they would have learnt with due diligence for the betterment of the country’s socio and economic standing. He aptly stated that Members of Parliament should still use the knowledge gained to advance the agenda for women empowerment by making sure gender responsive budgeting is practised by all the ministries that they represented.
According to his key note address, Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda, highlighted that gender responsive budgeting should be taken seriously by Members of Parliament as it is part of the Parliament’s constitutional mandate. To reinforce this, he quoted Section 119(1) of the Constitution which requires the Parliament to “protect the constitution and promote democratic governance in Zimbabwe.” He then qualified this by mentioning that The Parliament has a critical role to protect the Constitution and this therefore demands the protection of the parliament’s founding values and principles which include respect for gender equality. This therefore means that capacitating Members of Parliament in gender responsive budgeting is a constitutional imperative that is crucial in empowering the legislature to ensure that all budgetary allocations take into cognisance of the needs of women, men, boys, girls, the elderly and the disabled in all spheres of Zimbabwean Society in respect of their needs.
As quoted by Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda from the ‘Parliament, Budget and Gender Handbook for Parliamentarians number 6’, “The budget is simply an instrument and no more than that. The instrument is there to translate a policy and a strategy. Unless those policies and strategies are right, the instrument translates wrong things that run against the interest of Gender equality. Accordingly, the purpose of a gender perspective on a budget is to ensure that budgets and economic policies address the needs of women and men, girls and boys equitably.”
In responding to the requirements of gender responsive budgeting, The Speaker of the National Assembly reiterated that the legislature will not only be fulfilling their constitutional mandate but will also be responding to the vision of the 8th Parliament which is “To be an effective, efficient, participatory, gender sensitive and democratic Parliament that responds to the needs and aspirations of the people.”He then explained the importance of translating this vision into action by making sure that the national budget is gender responsive. This is because the national budget is a vital tool for economic development that is utilised by the government to attain national development priorities. Given that the national budget must be a people’s budget, the Members of Parliament were therefore reminded of the pivotal role that they play in ensuring that no one is left behind as far as national resource allocation is concerned. This therefore calls for active participation by Members of Parliament in making sure that gender is mainstreamed during all processes leading to the enactment of the 2018 national budget.
In concluding his key note address, Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda, called all Portfolio and Thematic Committees to demand the routine availability of gender disaggregated data and statistics that provide evidence based research that can help in identifying gender gaps that exists across all sectors of the economy. He stated that evidenced based research is fundamental as it can assist in evaluating policies as well as in putting in place remedial measures to correct any unintended anomalies especially those with a negative socio-economic impact on the citizens of Zimbabwe. He also indicated that gender budgeting should not be viewed as a mere bureaucratic exercise but reflected in each domain of public policy and should have a positive and clear impact on resource prioritisation as well as resource allocations.
In closing, Hon Advocate J.F. Hon Mudenda, expressed his gratitude to the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) for their continued and unwavering financial and technical support towards the capacity building of Parliamentarians and staff. He also appreciated the efforts of all other resource persons who facilitated in the smooth organisation of the gender responsive budget workshop. He expressed confidence in the gender responsive budgeting workshop’s ability to improve the Parliament’s scrutiny of sectoral budgets with a gender lens that will help in influencing the crafting of a gender sensitive 2018 national budget.
Rationale of the Training Workshop
A well-functioning budget system facilitates economic growth which translates to the eradication of poverty and citizens empowerment. Given the oversight role played by MPs in the budgetary process, it is necessary that the various Portfolio Committees demand accountability on gender commitments from Line Ministries at every stage of the budget cycle to ensure that GRB is practiced.
As a nation Zimbabwe has adopted and ratified a gender budgeting policy as part of its fiscal management strategy, and since 2007 has issued Budget Call Circulars requiring line ministries to integrate gender into their sector budgets.
The national budget allocations have different bearings on various sections of the society and this provides a basis for the rationale behind Gender Budgeting. There need to recognise the fact that the, through the pattern of resource allocation and priority accorded to competing sectors some parts of the society may be left out in resource distribution. Gender Budgeting in its simplest terms is 'Gender Structuring' of the budget aimed at disaggregating budgetary allocations using a gender lens.