Johannesburg - Budgets of several government departments were not sufficiently addressing the needs of women, Minister for Women and People with disability Lulu Xingwana said on Wednesday.
"Women constitute 50 percent of the country's population, all we are asking for is for our women to be released from the kitchen to contribute to the economy of our country both within government and the private sector," Xingwana said.
She was speaking at the release of the Gender Responsive Budget Initiative (GRBI) report which looks into the ability of key governments to align their budgets to the needs of women and the poor.
Xingwana said the GRBI campaign sought to ensure that the needs of women were specifically and equally addressed within the planning and budgeting framework.
"By so doing, this will enhance the building of capacity in communities, to enable ordinary women to determine where their priority economic needs and gaps are, and to also establish what resources or intervention mechanisms are needed to address those gaps," she said.
The GRBI, launched in February this year, is an initiative of the Department of Women and People with Disabilities and the Motsepe Foundation. It aims to strengthen the capacity of government to review and analyse budgets to ensure that the needs of women were equally addressed.
Its report, which has been handed over to Xingwana, focused on four sectors of the economy that included energy, agriculture, health and trade and industry. It found that the national budget at the Department of Agriculture was not gender responsive. There was not clear strategy, says the report, aimed at women and gender equality.
"Although the strategic plan (of the department) focuses on food security where the majority of women are involved, no specific programmes or budgets to help women. The department does not keep gender specific figures".
Researchers also established that the budget for the Energy Department was "gender biased" and less sensitive to gender women. Gender equality seemed to be confined within women's economic development with opportunities for women in the broader energy sector not properly defined.
Len Verwey from IDASA said the study looked at the objectives of the departments and some of the policies that focused on gender to arrive at the findings.
"This doesn't mean the work these departments are doing excludes women but the argument is that the gender dimension is not brought out, because if you want to empower women you want explicit programmes targeted at them to achieve the results," he said.
The report found the Health Department's budget to be more responsive to the needs of women largely due to the fact that policies were formulated within the context of government priority of reducing maternal rate.
"The health policy and budget statements are gender sensitive and portray gender awareness. The budget was more responsive to the needs of women who are mainly affected with the burden of disease". While the department was applauded for spending more of its budget on women programmes, it was found that there was still serious under spending on issues related to assisting victims of rape and domestic violence and HIV.
The Department of Trade and Industry budget was more gender responsive and in line with the department's emphasis on gender equality. The department underspent on its budget by R397 million in 2011. The department had a well-functioning gender and women empowerment unit that provided guidance on gender mainstreaming.
Xingwana said the Eastern Cape and Limpopo had been chosen as the first provinces to pilot the GRBI campaign. The campaign will target Director Generals of the departments as well as chief financial officers in a bid to make their offices more aware of "gender sensitive budgets".
"They are the ones who control the purse and they need to understand that it is through initiatives like these that we can really eliminate gender imbalances and reduce the dependence of women on their male counterparts".
The majority of women still bore the burden of marginalisation and unemployment, she said.
Dr Precious Motsepe from the Motsepe Foundation said the challenge for government and the private sector was to ensure that budget allocations were in line with the organisational policies and company goals.
"It's easy to say the company will do this and that for the women but if we do not provide budget for that, it will not happen so we have to align our goals with actual action and that is to provide the right budget," Motsepe said. She hoped GRBI would ensure equal access to resources by both men and women.