By Jagdish Hathiramani
Data from the Census of Public and Semi-Public Departments indicates glaring gender-based inconsistencies in employment patterns as well as expenditures between males and females by three key ministries - Education, Health and Agriculture.
For instance, according to the study, “female representation at the decision making levels of employment in the Ministry of Education as well as in the Departments of Examinations and Publications was quite low. At the very senior level there was no female representation in all three departments”. Also, the study states, referring to all agricultural and related institutions investigated, that “the female share of allocations and the beneficiary impact was less than parity or very much less than that proportion”.
These revelations formed part of a study examining budgetary allocations for 2007 (already expended) and 2008 (estimated) with the overall objective being to discover gender inconsistencies within the national budgetary process of Sri Lanka.
Commissioned by independent research organisation, the Pathfinder Foundation, the study was titled “Integrating a Gender Perspective to the National Budget of Sri Lanka: Ministries of Education, Health and Nutrition, Agriculture and Agrarian Service”, with highlights presented at a Sanvada (Public Seminar) organised in collaboration with the Women's Chamber of Industry and Commerce. It was held on September 21 in Colombo.
The seminar included a presentation of the highlights of the study by its author, Dr. (Mrs.) M. Masinghe, a former advisor to the Ministry of Education and a Consultant to the Ministry of Finance and Planning. There were also comments made by Dr. S.P. Premaratne, Senior Lecturer of Economics of the University of Colombo, and Ms. Sriyani Perera, ActionAid Asia – Women's Rights Coordinator.
Some recommendations of the study included: Allocations to be made to collect gender specific data and maintain data bases at the Ministry-level, Provincial- level and at the Central-level with every project and programme made responsible for collecting, collating, analyzing and using gender based data for project/programme planning at ministries.
In addition it was suggested to increase female representation at the decision-making levels of management and administration in the ministries which were investigated; overcome prevailing social conventions which promote male ownership of land available to public servants through transfers by promoting female public servants’ use of this facility.
It was also recommended to increase allocations for handicapped children; make the necessary financial provisions to address a shortfall in male teaching staff; make school nutritional programmes a higher priority compared to the provision of school uniforms; address reasons for high morbidity/mortality levels of males of all ages in disease categories where the male death rate is much higher than female death rate; and target the promotion of nutrition and health care of infants, children and mothers through increasing efficiency of preventive services.