That the state government is about to establish a department for women is a welcome initiative. Activists here have been crusading for it for over 15 years now. It is also a great first step that the government has published a Gender Document, which has clearly laid out the government’s perspective on gender-based budget allocation. A document we can criticise about; and there is a lot to criticise about. The policy is not based on a rights-based perspective, and looks at women from a victim perspective. The budget has allocated a significant share, `68.17 crore, for initiatives related to gender-based violence. While such initiatives are important, it should not have been the focus.
Projects should have been formulated to ensure rights of women to live as equals to men. Policies should have dealt with the unequal man-woman power structure, which stems from the idea that man is the only provider. It has been several years since women have become breadwinners. The budget has failed to do justice even in the case of areas where women form the majority of the workforce. For example, only Rs 55 crore of Rs 160.30 crore, the total plan outlay for food crop production, has been set aside for women. This, even though food crop production almost rests on shoulders of women, with men having turned their focus to cash crops.
Only three percent of the outlay for fisheries related infrastructure facilities is for women, even as there is an obvious need for better market places for women. A lot of the budget’s provisions cater to women in the middle class, while women working in unorganised sectors have almost been forgotten. The only place where the budget mentions the word unorganised is Rs 2 crore allocation for maternity allowance to workers in the unorganised sector. The budget is silent on migrant labourer women.
(Author is secretary, SEWA. As told to Archana Ravi)...