- A study says budget priorities towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and disability rights very low
- More women and girls with disabilities than men and boys in all age groups
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Sri Lanka, in its commitment to creating an inclusive economy must apply more focused efforts towards gender responsive budgeting, according to United Nations Women (UNW), a comprehensive survey which reveals the approaches by the government in this regard currently remain “narrow”.
Although Sri Lanka was one of the first few countries in the region to engage with gender budgeting, where the first pilot project was supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1997, UNW pointed out that the island nation’s experience with gender budgeting revolves around initiatives centered on research, including a few institutional processes, which does not lead to any substantive progress.
“The budget priorities of the government towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and disability rights are very low,” a status report on Sri Lanka by UNW launched last week revealed.
Evidence collected during the study that covered 400 persons with disabilities across four districts show that such individuals encounter multiple barriers in access to economic opportunities. Women with disabilities were noted to be twice as disadvantaged as men. The gender-based study, carried out along with the survey, revealed gaps in programmatic and budgetary commitments, although Sri Lanka had introduced several policies and legislation promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.
It is observed that most interventions for persons with disabilities have a ‘welfare’ approach, and that gender budgets are more concentrated around women’s reproductive health needs and gender-based violence.
“Most composite disability projects do not account for gender-specific disadvantages nor do they fix physical targets in the form of quotas to ensure the coverage of women and girls with disabilities,” the report highlighted.
Similarly, it was observed that the ongoing pro-women programmes treat women as a ‘homogenous group’ and lack affirmative measures to reach out to women and girls with disabilities.
“These programmes do not maintain beneficiary data disaggregated by disability and social status,” the UNW report asserted.
It is acknowledged that the 2018 budget included a directive related to ‘disability focused’ action areas and committed outlays; however, it is not reflected on budget estimates of spending units.
In the series of recommendations listed out, it was suggested for the government to make available a ‘detailed’ expenditure review and compliance audit to show as to how the Rs.65 million allocated for the implementation of the policy framework on empowering the differently-abled community, was spent.
Further, all relevant key performance indicators, (KPIs) should include sex-disaggregated information. With regard to budget call circulars, the scope of gender KPIs should be expanded to include disability dimension whenever relevant, the report recommended.
The number of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka today has increased substantially compared to the estimates of the 2001 census.
The Health Ministry estimates that by 2040, the number of persons living with disabilities would constitute approximately 24.2 percent of the population of Sri Lanka. The World Health Survey estimates that the disability prevalence rate in Sri Lanka is 12.9 percent.
While it is estimated by the Census of Population and Housing that an average of 87 persons per 1,000 in the country have some form of disability, there are more women and girls with disabilities than men and boys of all age groups.