The proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 has failed to address gender issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic leaving women of all sectors including working groups, entrepreneurs, and caregivers in a vulnerable situation.
Speakers made the observation during an online discussion on 'Covid-19 Pandemic: Challenges of Women, Upgradation and Gender Budget organised by Bangladesh Mahila Parisad on Saturday.
Chaired by Dr Fawzia Moslem, the discussion was addressed, among others, by Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Fahmida Khatun, Professor MM Akash, Senior Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Dr Nazneen Ahmed, Professor of Economics Department Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha and Director of Advocacy of BMP Jana Goswami. Rekha Chowdhury of BMP moderated the discussion.
The speakers observed that like the previous few years, the proposed budget did not publish any document on gender budget to clear fund allocation for women's development.
In absence of due focus on gender, they apprehended that women might be deprived of the facilities announced in the budget including the stimulus packages and put at risk in terms of health and livelihood in addition to domestic violence.
Dr Fahmida said the gender budget which always lacked disaggregated information on the sectorwise allocation for women was necessary to view the issues concerning the women already affected and to be affected in the coronavirus situation.
Noticing the reduction of Tk 38 billion in gender budget in the current fiscal year without showing reasons, she, however, recommended formation of a cell under the Finance Ministry by engaging organisations working on women's development including women entrepreneurship to monitor and recommend time-bound strategies for women.
The CPD Executive Director also called for putting the right focus on loans from banks for women entrepreneurs as well as welfare of women at family and social levels.
Professor MM Akash said vulnerability of women is high in the Covid-19 situation since the proposed budget has failed to address immediate challenges women face in the areas of in health and livelihood.
Highlighting the government's announcement to give Tk 2500 each to 500,000 families under a stimulus package, he said the list was yet to be prepared though female workers at construction sites, agricultural fields, readymade garments factories and those doing household chores lost jobs.
Dr Nazneen Ahmed highlighted the necessity of training for both women entrepreneurs and female workers on new innovation and said the government's help towards skill development in e-commerce could help women entrepreneurs get the benefit from upcoming Eid ul Azha.
She said a gender-specific budget is needed in view of issues associated with women's health, work, social and family constraints as women face multiple stress due to losing own family income amid the pandemic.
Bidisha also highlighted the vulnerability of young women in view of human capital development due to the tendency of focusing on male child more in education than a girl child when the family income reduces.
She said the government's special attention is also needed to maternal health, family welfare, etc from the point of view of ensuring reproductive health and non-Covid treatment.