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A decade of doubt: govt scheme cannot decipher gender

This story by me was first published in the IIJNM publication The Observer, on Mar 31, 2016. The Observer is the work of print journalism students who report exclusive news stories from Bangalore and the state of Karnataka. Follow us here.

Almost a decade after the launch of a “gender budget” in Karnataka, the state does not collect gender specific data to establish if the schemes actually help women.


Data of beneficiaries and expenditure is not collected separately for men and women, according to a budget official, despite the last CAG audit telling them to do so.

This year’s budget document repeats what was stated in last year’s document: “Lack of sex-disaggregated data is an impediment to disclosure to be made in the GB (gender budget) document.”

Poor data could be a reason behind poor impact of the budget on women, said policy expert Jyotsna Jha. Only one in five group A government employees is a woman, and the sex ratio fell in 2011 census after five years of a scheme meant to improve it.

Moreover, Jha also observed that skill development schemes under the budget enforce gender stereotypes rather than break them.

Still, the allocations went up by 8.5 per cent this year, to Rs.66,694 crore. The annual gender budget was first introduced by the government of Karnataka in 2007-08 to address gender-related issues and to empower women.


Gender and seniority: there’s a connection

The percentage of women in the government workforce goes up as seniority goes down: 33 per cent group C employees are women, while the figure is 22 per cent for group A officers.

According to the budget document, 3,548 of 15,484 group A employees are women, as compared to 11,936 men. One-fourth of 38,478 group B employees, and 1,39,273 out of 4,23,200 group C workers are women.

However, Jha, who is director of the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, said: “It’s a good thing they are at least sharing this data now.”


Male beneficiaries for women schemes? Quite possible

Lack of sex-segregated data has its own issues. Giving the example of micro-finance subsidy scheme for women from scheduled castes and tribes, Jha said: “The data for both gender and social group are not recorded together. So, even an SC male may be counted as a beneficiary of the scheme under gender budget. Then there are lending schemes where women are debtors but men are actually using the money.”

Jha said: “There is lack of clarity on whether the schemes are reaching women or not. If one is serious about gender budgeting, there should be sex-based monitoring and evaluation.” There is no evaluation of schemes from a gender perspective currently. She suggested that it can be done for one or two schemes initially to see if the gender budgeting is working.

Shashikala U. Shetty, the project director of Stree Shakti scheme run by the women and child welfare department, admitted that sex-disaggregated data is still not available. She said: “We are requesting the planning department to provide information with separate columns for men and women from all departments when they give their progress report. Right now, it doesn’t show how many are male beneficiaries and how many are female. We hope to do something about it soon.”

Jha said that reporting should be stronger, and we should know how much money was spent and what was unspent.


Impact on sex ratio?

The Bhagya Lakshmi scheme to improve the sex ratio by depositing money in banks for females until the age of 18, was introduced in 2006-07. However, five years after its implementation, the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group dropped to 943 females per 1000 males in 2011. The 2001 figure was 946.

The number of beneficiaries has gone down from 4,01,370 girls in 2012-13 to 1,83,351 in 2015-16. Allocation this year went down by 30 per cent to Rs.333.66 crore.


Poor categorization

The budget has schemes classified as categories A and B. While schemes with only women beneficiaries are put under category A, category B schemes have more than 30 per cent female beneficiaries. “There is lack of clarity on how the categories are decided,” said Jha.

She said: “A scheme such as Indira Awaas Yojana has male beneficiaries also, as various studies have shown. Still it is classified as category A. Education-based schemes assume that 50 per cent of beneficiaries are girls, which may not be true. These assumptions are not mentioned anywhere.”


Gender stereotypes

Vocational education schemes for women often focus on becoming a beautician or tailor, according to Jyotsna Jha. “Gender budget should be used to promote women’s status in society. But these schemes are only propagating the existing stereotypes. This way, young girls grow up with an idea of beauty which is highly problematic.”

However, she said that these are the more sophisticated points, and the government should at least start by assessing whether schemes are reaching women. “If you do it in a faulty manner, then it’s more problematic than not doing it,” she said.

Shetty said: “Gender budget is still in preliminary stage, we are trying hard to assess it. How far it is successful, it’s difficult to tell.”

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