KIRUKU: EAC has a USD101M budget, but not a cent for women

KIRUKU: EAC has a USD101M budget, but not a cent for women

Once again, women and the youth have nothing to celebrate in the EAC 2016/2017 budget that was debated and passed by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) last week. It is unfortunate that gender mainstreaming and youth empowerment have been relegated to the backseat as far as budgetary allocations are concerned.

Our leaders, most of whom are old men who belong to the traditional school of thought which believes that women should only be seen but not heard, have completely ignored women and youth concerns in major financial decisions.

The gender component is missing from the $101.4 million EAC 2016/2017 budget. This amount is a drop from the $110.7 million presented to the House in the previous financial year. Themed, “Towards Full Implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol and Enhancing the Implementation of the Monetary Union Protocol,” the budget has made various allocations to EAC organs and institutions.

These allocations at the regional level should be a guiding principle and good example to the national budgets of partner states. They should have a clearly demarcated focus on women and the youth that regional countries can emulate, thus having an effective trickle-down effect at the policy level. The EAC has seriously failed in offering this leadership.

This places the region at a disadvantage as it cannot move in tandem with the rest of the world. Financing women and youth-led projects and programmes is not a favour; it is a right and the most reasonable thing to do if we want development to be felt right at the grassroots.

Even though, for instance, the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) has been allocated $4.5 million, there is no clear indication whether any of these funds will be utilised to promote issues of women in higher education.

The IUCEA has been mandated with the responsibility of coordinating the harmonisation of higher education and training systems in East Africa, including strategic development of tertiary education. The body has not directly benefited women in academia, who have consistently complained of being short-changed when it comes to key decisions affecting education in the region.

It is sad that the health of women from across the region has been neglected and budgetary allocations towards improving and promoting health among women are diminishing. The East African Health Research Commission, which received $1.4 million, has not embarked on key research assignments that can improve the health of women in the region.

Women continue to die of cervical and breast cancers – the two types of cancers that are killing women in thousands – among other gynaecological diseases. Yet funding to such research has largely been left to donors and well-wishers, while our own budgetary allocations have ignored such areas of interest.

Though the institution is mandated with coordinating and mapping out a regional agenda on health research as well as the translation of its results into policy and practice within the Partner States; none its research has been translated into a national policy in any of the partner states.

The EAC must strengthen its legal and institutional frameworks for decentralized resource allocation by formalizing the budgetary process and resource allocation procedures. Women should be included in budgetary allocation forums so that they can highlight the issues they would like addressed.

Allocations must be on a need basis from data collected at the grassroots; quite often, the data used as the basis for allocations does not reflect the urgent areas of concern. This raises questions about the authenticity of the data that is relied upon, and it is tempting to imagine that some lazy planners could have concocted it.

The EAC therefore needs to improve data collection at the subnational, national and regional levels to ensure allocations are based on accurate indicators. This underlines the importance of expediting the formation of an East African Bureau of Statistics.

The EAC Secretariat must also improve on planning and management of resources as well as collaborative planning. Increasing budgetary allocation to women and the youth will trickle down to the grassroots and bring tangible development to many rural folks.

Women’s empowerment is key to fighting poverty as well as mainstreaming gender across the region. Regional leaders must be in the forefront in fighting inequality through gender-targeted allocations in education, health, banking and all other areas.

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Story By Anne Kiruku
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