MANILA, Philippines – The government allotted P105.75 billion for its 2015 Gender and Development (GAD) budget, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) boasted.
Can you feel it?
Among the country’s many laws empowering women is the Women in Development and Nation Building Act of 1992, which mandates concerned government agencies to “support programs and activities for women.”
The law guarantees that women “benefit equally and participate directly” in all government programs, while also seeking to eliminate “gender bias” in legislations.
This led to the implementation of the GAD Budget Policy in 1995, requiring all departments to allot at least 5% of their total budget for GAD-related activities. Local government units and state colleges and universities were later on included.
The budget may be used for education and capacity-building programs; development of gender-responsive data and information systems; women’s desks, shelters, and health centers; livelihood projects, daycare and breastfeeding facilities in workplaces; among others.
The GAD budget has increased over the years, said former Civil Service Commissioner Mary Ann Mendoza, resulting from the tireless efforts of advocates.
|Year||% of GAD budget allocation||Exact amount|
(Source: Philippine Commission on Women)
The GAD budget allocation is now over 8%, however, its utilization remains low, Mendoza said. She worries that if this trend continues, people might start criticizing GAD.
“Ah, ‘di naman pala ginagamit, bawasan na lang ‘yan. Baka sabihin nila ‘yan,” she said. (Ah, it’s [GAD budget] not being used, let’s just reduce it.)
In the past decade, the Senate observed an “erratic” GAD budget allocation. “The unpredictability of the budget levels indicates that while the GAD budget policy has been implemented for more than a decade now, it has not been fully institutionalized in the agencies’ respective annual budgets,” said the Senate report.
“We need to be more creative about what projects to do,” stressed Mendoza, “In capacitating women, we need a more systematic and targeted way of helping women to be in leadership positions.”
Meanwhile, a 2010 study by Miriam College, with support from the UN and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), found that having a GAD policy is “not enough.”
“A review of the Philippine GAD budgeting process noted that while the Philippines is the only country that authorizes a specific budgetary allocation to implement the GAD Budget Policy, compliance with the policy has been very low, and there is no operational mechanism to actively promote compliance and performance,” it reported.
Such problems may be attributed to the fact that government offices lack help in figuring out how they maximize or harness their budget, according to Mendoza. She observed that government employees doing GAD tasks take on several other roles at work, hence possibly reducing GAD as a mere sideline obligation.
She advised the government to create job positions specifically focusing on GAD budget and program implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. She also suggested shifting from training women “to become like men,” to training women to maximize what they can do.
“We can also have a pool of gender champions, then put them in agencies where women are not yet in leadership positions like DPWH or DA,” she added.
One of the government agencies with a widely praised GAD project is the Philippine Port Authority’s (PPA) halfway houses. These temporary shelters, catering to human trafficking victims and potential targets, are established across different ports nationwide since such areas have become hotspots for trafficking transactions.
By 2009, the halfway houses have assisted over 100,000 women and children. The program is managed with the help of a non-governmental organization.
Naga City is also lauded for having its own women’s council and sufficient GAD budget.
Other local and national government agencies are encouraged to follow suit.
In 1999, the media uncovered how certain government agencies were misusing GAD budgets. Funds were used for flowers, jewelry, aerobics classes, ballroom dancing, personal transportation and accommodation of government officials, among other unnecessary expenses.
The exposé pushed advocates to take a closer look at how the government handles funds. In 2001, Social Watch Philippines, an independent budget watchdog, warned that mismanaged GAD plans may end up as a “vehicle for added inefficiency and wastage of the people’s money.”
Since then, the PCW has pushed agencies to maintaining stricter and more productive GAD implementations.
All government agencies are required to submit an annual GAD plan, budget, and accomplishment report. “While submissions have generally increased through the years, compliance with the said requirement remains low,” the Senate reported.
|Year||GAD Plan Submissions|
(Source: Senate, PCW)
On average, only around 28% of the country’s 380 government agencies submitted GAD plans from 1995 to 2010. Not all agencies comply with the minimum allocation of 5% either.
NEDA highlighted two main problems: Poor commitment to gender mainstreaming, and the tendency of women to lose in the competition for resources.
On the other hand, GAD programs have also positively impacted both women and men, according to NEDA as seen in the following:
- Improved women’s participation in government projects
- Improved access to resources distributed through projects (i.e., water supply, agriculture)
- Reduced sexism in school learning materials
- Increased rescue of trafficked victims
- Improved transporation facilities
- Safer workplaces for women
- Improved women’s access to jobs
The world has consistently celebrated the Philippines for being one of the most gender-fair nations, but reality may reveal otherwise. (READ: Women, where art thou?)
“The challenge is to make our Magna Carta of Women a reality,” said Mendoza. Although the Philippines has an abundance of “women-friendly” laws, much has yet to be done to concretize such policies.
No doubt, these laws look good on paper, but do the women themselves feel their impact? – Rappler.com
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