By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA) has begun the process of raising awareness among key stakeholders to ensure that fiscal budgets of Liberia become gender sensitive.
Inputs at a one-day roundtable dialogue yesterday captured that the budget document be simplified together with previous budget performance report, that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection be a member of the National Budget Committee and that the committee on open budget exerts itself in terms of regarding the issue of timeliness; if the budget is to become gender sensitive.
The discussion was made a reality with support from the Democracy and Human Rights Funds through the United State Embassy and in special remarks from the US Ambassador Deborah Malac, she said her government supports gender equality and women’s empowerment because it is a cornerstone of their foreign policy.
Amb. Malac said gender responsive budget takes into account different priorities and it is an important component in building a sustainable democracy because citizens need to participate in their own government.
She said when citizens become encouraged to engage the Legislature regarding the budget, then it becomes realistic while theUN Women Country Representative, Awa NdiayeSeck said if the world continues to treat gender equality at this pace, it will not be realized until 2029.
Madam Seck said for Liberia, the expectation for gender equality and its issues are higher because of its election of a first African female president.
During the panel discussion, the Senior Budget Policy Officer at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Sarah Johnson said the budget is not another instrument to give women money instead to enable inhabitants feel the impact of their revenues.
Ms. Johnson said the Liberian budget is in two parts which include salaries and projects and programs admitting that there has been serious constraint in developing a gender responsive budget in the country.
She advised that in order to capture gender components in the national budget, the technical skills of ministries and agencies need to be strengthened because along the way of the budget preparations, people do not demonstrate the will and get compromised and so the Ministry of Gender is not in the know of its own budget.
The Director of the Legislative office, Julius Caesar said the budget must serve as a tool to articulate the aspiration of the people but there have always been discrepancies in the national budget not because the drafters are incompetent but because the process is always made tedious.
Mr. Caesar said budgetary allocation in Liberia has always been administrative; paying salaries and tending to operations but quoting a wise saying, he noted, “If you want to know which way a country is heading; check how it handles women’s issues.”