Women in budgetDespite significant strides, some gaps in mobility and entrepreneurship remain.
Over the years, Nepal has made great strides in closing gender-based gaps. According to a report released by the World Bank in March 2022, Nepal made the fastest progress among South Asian countries. In fact, among the eight indicators measured, Nepal scored a maximum of 100 in three areas—workplace (that analyses laws affecting women’s decisions to work), pay (laws and regulations affecting women’s pay) and marriage (legal constraints related to marriage). Despite these significant strides, there are glaring gaps in other areas, such as parenthood, mobility and entrepreneurship, which require immediate redressal.
Adopting gender-responsive budgeting and thus incorporating gender into the framework of the national budgeting system has undoubtedly made the government more accountable in its commitment to women’s empowerment. Still, there seems to be a callous slant taken in the implementation of the existing policies. It follows a standard tick-box approach to addressing any particular issue of women and gender inequality. For example, concerning gender-based violence, the focus has remained on making safe houses. Still, no further steps such as social integration and initiatives to ensure healthcare and psychological well-being of the victims are being integrated into the programmes taken to mitigate the glaring disparities.
In the last 15 years, there has been a marked increase in direct gender-responsive budgeting, from a meagre 11.03 percent in 2007-08 to 40.25 percent in 2022-23. Gender-responsive budgeting has led to increased participation of women in the labour force as teachers, within the security apparatus and as entrepreneurs in running micro and small-scale businesses. It has also helped bridge the gap, increasing women’s land ownership. Despite these achievements, these approaches have been classed as superficial and are divergent from the core problems at hand.
Measures should not be designed as reactive. The issue of rescuing expectant mothers by helicopter, though useful, would instead be better served by addressing maternity health by establishing health care centres so that the needs are taken care of without much fuss of a rather supercilious grand idea of transporting the ill through means which are often riddled with complications. There may be rules preventing workplace harassment of women. Still, without a proper reporting channel, such laws merely exist to the satisfaction of the authorities who quickly point out their existence but do little to examine their effectiveness in tackling the issues on the ground.
As it stands, the implementation of policies has been at a snail’s pace across the sectors, not just those concerning proposals related to gender-responsive budgeting. The existence of policies on paper rarely matches their implementation in reality. Despite what has been achieved, the government’s actions need to show that empowering women is more than detailing procedures on paper. Instead of focusing on reactive responses, there is a need to implement policies that will prevent crises in the first place.