By Ndubuisi Francis
The federal government disclosed Monday that it is working towards entrenching public financial management processes that are more gender-sensitive, even as it ensures the availability of credible and disaggregated data.
The government also stated that it is scaling up existing and developing new interventions towards gender equality and fiscal policy/public financial management.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, in her goodwill message during the commemoration of the 2021 International Women’s Day (IWD) National Policy Dialogue, noted that through the implementation of Finance Acts 2019 and 2020, the federal government is providing tax relief and other forms of support to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), many of which are owned by women.
She said: “We are also working to ensure that our public financial management processes are more gender-sensitive, and that credible disaggregated data is available. Such a focus will yield sustainable and scalable change.
“We are also scaling up existing and developing new interventions at the intersection of gender equality and fiscal policy/public financial management. These include gender-responsive budgeting, and assessments of the gender responsiveness of key fiscal interventions (including fiscal stimulus packages) with specific commitments aimed at improving the safety, livelihoods and economic status of women and girls.
“This is an area in which we at the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning are focusing more deliberately and will be prioritising, in partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs and other critical stakeholders.”
She pointed out that despite the progress made, women and girls continue to bear the disproportionate burden of the COVID-19 pandemic — on the frontlines, in their homes, and across various sectors — adding that they must be given the opportunities and tools with which to be socially, financially, and economically empowered.
She advocated that every woman and girl should be guaranteed safety in their respective homes, schools, communities, and places of work, while calling for an end to gender-based violence, and an end to the so-called ‘shadow pandemic’ once and for all.
The minister observed that gender equality and women’s economic empowerment remain critical in ensuring inclusive and sustainable development.
“If we fail to act now, the goals espoused in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 will remain out of reach,” she said.
According to her, this year’s theme: ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’ is a resounding call to celebrate the unfailing resilience and inspiring leadership of women and girls around the world.
She applauded the efforts of the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, adding that she has been a tireless advocate for gender equality, and had taken a bold stand in the campaign to end violence against women and girls.
Ahmed noted that internationally, the country is proud to have the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, and the recently appointed World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, among its gender advocates and champions of change.
Speaking on the importance of the dialogue, she said it was an important and necessary opportunity to course correct, noting that it was especially timely as it occurs alongside the development of the next generation of medium and long-term National Development Plans (for which gender mainstreaming is a priority), as well as the Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF).
The minister stressed: “As we work to build back post COVID-19, we in government, under the leadership of H.E. President Muhammadu Buhari, are prioritising our most vulnerable (including women and children). We are implementing an Economic Sustainability Plan, having put in place a comprehensive fiscal stimulus package, and are scaling up our social safety net programmes. Additionally, we have increased investments in the health and education sectors in the ‘2021 Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience’.”
Considering the challenge of domestic revenue mobilisation, Ahmed stated that projects in the education sector, including the new Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE), have been adapted to support distance learning and mitigate the risk of children, particularly girls, not returning to school.
To make the critical investments necessary to close the gender gap and secure the economic empowerment of women and girls, she advocated that the longstanding challenge of domestic revenue mobilisation must be addressed.
The finance minister disclosed that the federal government is working towards developing the second phase of the Strategic Revenue Generation Initiatives (SRGI), adding that even with the progress made, the federal government is still far from its goal.