Sonke Comments on Budget Speech

We welcome determination to raise the money needed for service delivery and call on the Minister to make sure that gender transformation work is prioritised, including efforts to engage men and boys in support of gender equality

Sonke Gender Justice acknowledges Minister Gordan’s 2012 budget as a shift in the right direction. We welcome its focus on enhancing social welfare and primary healthcare services, its commitment to creating the infrastructure needed to accomplish these and its determination to raise the taxes necessary to make this possible.

Although the budget speech only has a cursory mention of women’s participation in the economy, it is clear that the budget has the potential to enhance gender equality, especially in terms of improving women’s access to welfare and health services. As documented in a recent report by the SA Institute for Race relations1 urban single parents were overwhelmingly female, and between the ages of 25 and 34 years with high unemployment rates and a heavy burden of caring for those living with HIV and AIDS. This is the population group that will benefit significantly from the new measures announced in the speech, like the increase in social grants, and support for the HIV prevention and treatment programme.

Sonke welcomes the ambitious HIV treatment and prevention support announced in the speech although we know that government departments must be monitored closely to enhance service delivery and root out corruption. Judging by district level service provision of medical male circumcision, it is clear that extra funding is not the problem, but that integration with municipal planning and the capacity to deliver pose greater obstacles. A dedicated resource may be required for district based health facilities, similar to the proposed establishment of the municipal infrastructure support agency. This required capacity support also needs to be extended to the host of community care workers that are yet to be recruited to fill the gap between district health service delivery and communities health needs. The National Health Insurance scheme depends on this group of community workers to deliver the services it supports, and their recruitment and training may pose another obstacle to quick and effective health service delivery.

It is admirable that the Isibindi children’s programme has gained support at this level, being a programme that was developed from grassroots by civil society. Including this programme in the budget speech shows that the minister is serious about moving with social innovation, and adopting useful practices from civil society. The Isibindi programme has strong focus on gender equality with particular girl and boy child initiatives. The support that the programme will now have surely bodes well for gender equal participation in the economy.

Overall, Sonke applauds the minister for the progressive step taken to increase taxes on the wealthy in the manner proposed, as this is a long overdue step. The speech neglected to mention directly any measures to mitigate the high levels of endemic violence against women in South Africa. Women’s full and equal participation in the economy is vital to achieving gender transformation; so is addressing our extraordinarily high levels of domestic and sexual violence. Sonke urges the minister to consider using the dividends from the new tax to support work that will address these issues, including dedicating resources to efforts aimed at increasing men’s support for gender equality.