The Gender Budget Group congratulates the government on a Budget 2024 that responds to the needs of various communities; however, we note that its limited gender perspective could be improved so that allocations will reach the furthest left behind, including women and children.
The national budget should be an opportunity to redress existing inequalities including gender equality that affect all in Malaysia.
Gender-responsive budgeting looks at the budget’s impact on girls, boys, men and women. It acknowledges the differences in situations, roles, contributions and needs of different communities and ‘responds’ accordingly by allocating specific budgets for both women and men beneficiaries in projects and programmes.
A positive step to achieving this is reflected in the i-Sayang programme, which acknowledges shared care work in households and potentially accounting for househusbands and women who are breadwinners. Allowing the transfer of women’s shares to their husbands is a move that reflects a deeper understanding of the lived realities in many families in our country.
Having a gender-responsive budget does not only look at the RM720m for women and youth empowerment nor tax exemptions for childcare alone. These are helpful allocations that continue from the previous Budget. “Instead, a gender-responsive budget model aims for transformative outcomes in people’s lived realities; which requires robust monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment in place to support allocations and policies,” shared Omna Sreeni-Ong, founder of Engender Consultancy and co-lead of the Gender Budget Group.
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A responsive budget must, for example, include wider disaggregated data for better informed and gender-equal technical and vocational education and training programmes, or take into consideration the rising female headed households in Malaysia who may not be eligible for tax exemptions or may likely be in informal work. In that, it has missed an opportunity to even the playing field.
“Building on Malaysia Madani [Civil Malaysia] as a governance concept, Budget 2024 should be reflective of the diverse needs of the community in Malaysia at this time. We need resources allocated to systems, structures and the people required to deliver social services to those most vulnerable, including JKM [Social Welfare Department]. This means that the social work sector must be strengthened. We hope that through implementation, there will be a deeper response to the unique and specific needs across all sectors and all facets of society,” said Sumitra Visvanathan, executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation, the co-secretariat of the Gender Budget Group.
Our hope as the Gender Budget Group, is for civil society organisations, the government and the whole of society to continue working towards a comprehensive approach that is intersectional and that includes rigorous reporting and impact of Budget 2024. By doing so, we can ensure that Malaysia is on track towards achieving gender equality and more importantly, redress inequalities across communities, geographic locations, socioeconomic backgrounds and identities in Malaysia. – Gender Budget Group
The Gender Budget Group (GBG) is a coalition of 21 civil society organisations and 18 academics spearheaded by Engender Consultancy and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), who are focused on taking a more proactive approach to ensure that different needs are effectively catered to in the Budget