Gender budget is about looking at the national budget through a gender lens. Bangladesh began formulating the gender budget 2009. At present, various ministries prepare the gender budget and send it to the finance ministry every year before the national budget. However, this budget seems inadequate to address the issue of violence against women.

Speakers at the event identified two key factors behind that -- one, the amount is inadequate to address the significant challenges and the other is the proper use of the allocated funds is not assured. They proposed a specific framework to overcome these issues.

Among others, Aroma Dutta, member of parliament, Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, Kashfia Feroz, director (girls’ rights) of Plan International Bangladesh, Seema Moslem, joint secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Tania Haque, professor at women and gender studies department of Dhaka University, Sormindo Nilormi, associate professor at economics department of Jahanirnagar University, Nobonita Chowdhury, director (gender justice, and diversity) of Brac and Kaniz Fatema, vice-president of Bangladesh Women in Technology were present at the roundtable.

Plan International presented their study titled, ‘Budget Framework Analysis on Challenging Fear of Violence’ at the time. The study aims at examining the trend of allocation for gender budget in previous budgets, assessing older budgets to understand how the issue of violence against women has been addressed there and recommending issues that should be addressed in the gender budget framework so that adequate resources are allocated.

The study based their proposed framework titled, ‘budgetary framework to address fear of violence’ on for specific issues. The issues includes collection of gender disaggregated data, participatory budgetary decision making process, improved expenditure of budget, and better revenue mobilization and utilisation. These will be helpful in addressing the issue of violence against women in the budget.

Terming women as the centre of development, member of parliament Aroma Dutta said, the demands made in this regard during the 80's have not changed that much. Though there is no conflict regarding the necessity of gender budget for women, it has to be stressed again and again.

Stating that there is no specific data on the expenditure of the gender budget, she said, there is a great need for data in all ministries and the focus should be on data, so that effective expenditure can be ensured. She added there are a lot of policies and laws against violence on women, but whether these are being properly implemented or not should be monitored.

The MP called for a change of people's mindset on this issue. There should be arrangements for training on the administrative level, she said, adding that men should consider women as their partners not opponents. Electronic media along with the print media can also play a vital role in making people aware, she added.

Finally she made two suggestions in order to better address the issue of violence against women in the budget. One is to discuss the lack of data in detail with the SDG cell and the planning ministry. The other is to create a future plan for the next five years in the shape of a full-fledged programme.

Kashfia Feroz of Plan International Bangladesh said most of the activities on violence against women in Bangladesh focuses on the aftermath or what can be done once the act of violence has already occurred but the issue of fear of violence remains unaddressed. Even the issue of women’s condition following the corona period is not being considered.

She said, they conducted a survey across the country and found that as much as 35 per cent parents married their daughters off to protect them from sexual harassment whereas 55 per cent parents do not allow their daughters to take part in any outdoor activities out of similar fear.

She added, there is no specific allocation for prevention of violence against women or child marriage in the budget, which could have provided a way of giving assurance to marginal girls and women. These issues should be brought up in the budget discussions and media can play a vital role for that.

DU professor Tania Haque said, every women from their respective places are faced with the fear of violence. Along with offline violence online violence has also started now, which is highly alarming. The negative growth created through violence should be addressed in the budget, she added.

There should be allocations for data collection, gender education, training for teachers-students-political leaders, awareness, research, economic development of women through skill building, impact analysis etc. in the budget. Along with financial budget there should be time budget as well to ensure women’s growth as well as society’s development, she added.

JU teacher Sormindo Nilormi said, there should be gender segregated data available, This is very important. Development initiatives taken for women should be brought under public funding otherwise there is no scope for further development. Plus, it has to carefully consider which data holds importance during research, in order to address the issue properly.

She made suggestions that economic data on women’s condition should be updated or better understanding. Another thing she proposed for is a commission in the budget, for the reformation of the inheritance law to ensure equal rights for women.

Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, said, there is no talk on women’s fear of violence. This is the result of considering women weaker on the whole. She commented, women’s loss is society’s loss and there are economic losses involved too. So, gender budget is required to ensure their growth.

There should be budget for law or policies against violence against women. And, in asking allocation for women in the budget, women and children affairs ministry should play a vital role. She added, it is a great loss that the sectors of expenditure in the gender budget cannot be identified due to lack of data. So, monitoring and evaluation is essential. Plus, marginal women should be brought in to participate in related discussion.

She further said, not only financial allocation, there should be other fiscal measures such as tax rebate available for women. And, the initiatives taken purely in women empowerment should be made clear to others. Finally, the fund for gender budget is not adequate; it should be increased as well as there should be a specific records on that, she suggested.

Abdul Quayum, associate editor of Prothom Alo gave the welcome speech at the beginning of the roundtable while Firoz Choudhury, assistant editor of Prothom Alo moderated the session.