• Thursday, July 24, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    New Nets Offer Some Safety

    New budgetary allocations make work safer for women.

    New budgetary allocations make work safer for women.

    Joshua Kyalimpa

    Kampala: Robinah Nabukalu sings to her three-week baby before laying her down to sleep. Both will rest easier at their house in Rubaga in Kampala under an insecticide-treated net provided by the government under a gender-sensitive budgeting effort.

    “Before, I suffered frequent malaria attacks, even during my pregnancy,” says Nabukalu. “Now malaria is a thing of the past, and my baby is safely protected.”

    Malaria is a leading cause of death in Uganda, with children under five particularly vulnerable. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 70,000 and 110,000 children die of malaria in this East African country each year.

    Nabukalu is among those who received 17 million mosquito nets distributed free by the Ugandan government in 2009-2010. Under gender-responsive budgeting, more than seven million pregnant women were particularly included.

    The non-governmental organisation Forum for Women’s Development (FOWODE) began lobbying the Ugandan government in 1999. “Gender responsive budgeting is about ensuring that government resources address the needs of both men and women,” says Esther Nabwire, gender budget programme officer at FOWODE, “and I’m glad that after a lot of lobbying, the government has embraced it.”

    Over the past few years, Uganda has allocated a substantial part of its budget to education, health, agriculture and water, at least partly in response to gender budgeting requirements. Gender and equity guidelines are now attached to the budget circular sent out to departments and local governments.

    But Nabwire says the government has not gone far enough. “The major challenge is that gender has not been prioritised: when you prioritise something, you allocate resources.”

    Alice Alaso is member of parliament for Soroti and secretary-general of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change. She says the government lacks adequate knowledge about gender needs or is failing to solve specific problems.

    “The government does a blanket budget on education, (but) look at the school dropouts: the rate for girls is higher than for boys.”

    But there are undoubted signs of targeted progress. In areas vital to levelling the playing field for women — health, education, agriculture — budgets have doubled or tripled.

    In agriculture, the government has set aside money to lend to women groups who make up the bulk of the workforce on the farm but find themselves marginalised by male control of land and production.

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