The need to ensure a meaningful budget allocation for the effective implementation of the National Plan of Action to end Violence against Women and Children (NPA-VAWC) dominated the three-day seminar that targeted Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Services and Development recently held in Dodoma.
A total of 30 Members of Parliament participated in the seminar organized by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children in partnership with UN Women.
The robust discussions at the seminar have already started bearing fruit after the Chairperson of the Committee on Social Services and Development, Honourable Peter Serukamba highlighted in the august house, a lack of reference and mention of the National Plan of Action during the government’s preliminary discussions on the 2020/2021 Annual Work Plan. He appealed to all ministries to submit Gender Budget Statements reflecting allocations aimed at addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment issues.
At the seminar, Honourable Serukamba also emphasized the need to invest in strategies that will prevent violence as a more cost-effective measure.
The Five-year National Plan of Action (2017/18 – 2021/22), has been developed by consolidating eight different action plans addressing violence against women and children to create a single comprehensive, National Plan of Action working to eradicate violence against women and children in Tanzania.
It emphasizes actions needed for both prevention and response to violence while recognizing that investing in prevention has a positive and cost-effective impact on inclusive growth.
The Dodoma seminar provided a platform not only for the Members of Parliament to understand the provisions of the National Plan of Action but also for them to appreciate the importance of lobbying for increased funds through a gender budget allocation system to help accelerate implementation of the Plan.
This initiative comes at a time when Tanzania will join the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November.
The launch scheduled for Jamhuri National Stadium in Dodoma, will mark the beginning of 16 Days of activities that will advocate for an end to violence against women and children. This year’s global theme is: Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape. Despite the theme’s focus on rape, Tanzania will use the 16 Days to discuss and come up with concrete actions on how to effectively tackle all forms of violence against women and girls.
Therefore, the National Plan of Action presents opportunities for renewed commitment towards ending violence by various actors including the civil society, the private sector, academia, men, religious and traditional leaders and artists, among others.
According to the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Faustine Ndugulile, it would be unfortunate for Tanzania to have invested so much in the development of the National Plan of Action and then fail to fully implement it.
Dr Ndugulile was part of the three-day seminar where he stressed the need to take a hard look at the increasing pattern of violence against women and children and to make tough decisions to arrest the pandemic.
It was obvious why Dr Ndugulile was pushing hard to change the trend: violence is a daily reality for large number of women and children.
According to the Demographic Health Survey of 2015/16, an estimated 40 percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence while 17 percent are survivors of sexual violence.
Addressing violence is therefore a central development goal in its own right and key to achieving other development outcomes for women, their families, communities and the nation.
During the seminar, presentations by actors from various sectors including the police showed the need to accelerate efforts, including increasing the capacity of Police’s Gender and Children Desks throughout the country.
In an interview this week, Dr Ndugulile says he wants the multisectoral approach of the NPA to guide lobbying for more actors to champion an end to violence, particularly Members of Parliament who are influential leaders in their constituencies, in addition for them to push for the injection of more funds targeting problem areas.
Dr Ndugulile explains that the rise in incidents could be a result of increased awareness on the need to report cases, “Because not only are survivors reporting but also members of the community when they witness acts of violence”, Dr Ndugulile says, adding that, there was also a painful possibility that cases were actually increasing. “Either way, violence against women and children is a problem for the government.”
He further explains that, as a strategy, the government and partners have started working rigorously to try and prevent cases from happening. “We have set up 11,000 committees for increased prevention efforts and also established One-Stop-Centres where survivors can report cases, receive counselling, healthcare services and also get free legal assistance. We would like to mainstream services in all schools to improve reporting of domestic cases that usually go unreported,” says Dr Ndugulile.
However, ensuring sufficient resources to address all the targeted thematic areas in the NPA is critical, Dr Ndugulile says.
“We have a big challenge when it comes to adequate funding and one of our strategies is to have more partners on board to support efforts at various levels and through different means. Critically, we need to have members of Parliament who are gender sensitive to support our push for gender-responsive budgeting and improved monitoring of funded initiatives. What we urgently want to happen is to have a gender responsive budget system that can support the implementation of the National Plan of Action
I am happy that UN Women was also part of the seminar to support us to explore South-South Cooperation, which can facilitate learning from countries that are effectively implementing gender responsive budgeting in the context of violence against women and children,” says Dr Ndugulile.
Honourable Serukamba concurs with Dr Ndugulile on the need to take serious gender responsive budgeting.
“Now is the time to act! and we must do it! We are going to work closely with our leadership to make sure that we put in place mechanisms that will turn the tide of violence against women and children. I support the thinking that says: we should learn from other countries because the whole idea is not for us to reinvent the wheel,” says Hon. Serukamba.
“For me as chairman of the social services committee, I am taking a serious lead on this to push the implementation of the NPA to another level.”
UN Women’s Advisor on Governance, Ms Usu Mallya applauds the call for mandatory submission of gender budget statements by Ministries and local government authorities as an important oversight tool to facilitate enhanced accountability, partnership on financing of the costed NPA and tracking of results to end violence against women and children among diverse actors ranging from the government and development partners to CSOs and the private sector.
Ms Mallya explains that an enabling environment to undertake a gender responsive budget to implement the NPA already exists.
The United Republic of Tanzania’s guidelines for preparation of plans and budgets (2019/20 – 2021/22) issued by the Ministry of Finance and Planning directs that: all accounting officers are required to integrate into their plans and budgets, cross-cutting issues such as gender mainstreaming, HIV and AIDS, physically challenged people, nutrition, environment, climate change and good governance.
“The NPA is the first comprehensive national plan to end violence against women and children to be costed. It provides a unique opportunity to mobilize multi-stakeholder partnership for its implementation,” says Ms Mallya.
In 2017, Prime Minister’s Office, which has the mandate to coordinate activities under the NPA, directed all priority sectors to allocate budget for the implementation of strategies and initiatives to end violence against women and children relevant to their sector ministries.
The stakeholders included the President’s Office; and Ministries responsible of Agriculture; Water and Irrigation; Education; Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children; Industry, Trade and Investment; Trade and Industries, Livestock and fisheries; Home Affairs; and Regional Administration and Local Government.