Contrary to government’s claims that women’s empowerment is high on its agendas, the central body responsible for women’s development sees a considerable decline in its budgetary allocation from Rs344 million in 2009-10 to Rs153 million for the fiscal year 2010-11.
The budget speech came out to be disappointment for women, as women’s development did not have any notable mentioning in the budget speech.
Federal Minister for Finance Abdul Hafeez Shiekh did not bother to give even a single liner to acknowledge the role of women. Many still remember that last year speech when Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar started the speech by acknowledging that without women’s empowerment, sustainable economic growth was not possible.
Hina’s speech included announcement for provision of marriage grant, enhancement of limit for the exemption in income tax for salaried women from Rs240,000 to Rs260,000, increase in the outreach of micro finance service from two million to three million borrowers and funds for establishment of vocational ‘dastakari’ schools for women. No such announcements made part of this year’s speech. The biggest initiative that involves women and contributes towards their economic empowerment was again Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) because of the fact that all financial help under this project will be release in the name of women. The government plans to release Rs50 billion for the project under different heads for this year.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Women Development (MoWD), established by Benazir Bhutto in 1989, has no significant role to play in this project. The majority of the projects on cards with MoWD address a small segment of total women population except Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP) that is allocated Rs20.578 million for the coming year and the establishment of women centres.
Women centres remain the biggest venture on the list of MoWD on-going projects. Around Rs35.455 will be allocated to establish women centres at Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Mianwali, Quetta, Kohat, Vehari, Sahiwal, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Mirwala, Hyderabad, Benazirabad, Sibbi, Abbottabad, Jacobabad, Khushab, Mirpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Khuzdar and Swat.
Under its new schemes, Rs5 million will be allocated to establish Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centres for Women at Attock, Chakwal, Gujrat, Jhang, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Layyah, Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Dadu, Sanghar, Badin, Chitral, Dera Ismail Khan, Haripur, Charsadda, Mardan, Zhob, Kech, Gwadar, Jaffarabad, Kila Abdullah, Chaghi, Lasbela, Gilgit and Skardu.
All the other 20 on-going and new projects like IT training for elected lady representatives (Rs3.292 million), establishment of hostel for orphan girls in Sindh (Rs3.292 million), construction of workingwomen’s hostels in G-6/2, G-7/3 (Rs16.46 million), establishment of resource centres in Gilgit-Baltistan (Rs3.292 million) and establishment of daycare centre at female campus of International Islamic University (Rs3.292 million) are all vital for the women’s empowerment.
However, critics believe that these plans can effectively improve the status of women only if these are started simultaneously for a larger segment of population instead of initiating them in some specific area with limited resources and that too at a snail’s pace. Other than starting work on 29 new women’s centres, the ministry has allocated budget for two new projects including construction of General Mushtaq Shaheed Memorial Hospital, Women Facility at Choa Saidan Shah, District Chakwal by Falah Foundation, Rawalpindi (Rs2.469 million) and economic empowerment of women through gender reforms awareness raising, Research Support Institutions for Survivors of Violence Impact Assessment,
Source: The News