[MINORITY VOICE]Funding required for women

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[MINORITY VOICE]Funding required for women

Koreans are often swayed by world trends. This is partly due to Korea having the highest ratio of Internet users in the world. But one trend that Koreans seem reluctant to adopt is increasing the funding for government projects for women.

Some government officials insist that half the budget is spent on women, but they are reluctant to list women-related benefits separately. Are half the government funds really used for women? Don't we need to examine the funding for women-related programs?

To grasp this issue, let's first understand how equal the sexes are in Korean life. The gender-equality level in homes was 62.5 out of a possible 100 last year, according to a poll conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality. The level in offices was 54.6 points out of 100.

Our society should strive to develop policies to benefit women and promote equality among the sexes. And it should expand the budget to promote those policies. The budgets of ministries that directly or indirectly deal with women grew only 0.3 percent from 1999 to 2002. The funding of programs for women by local governments is equally dismal.

The size of the government's budget for its policies gauges its will to achieve those policies. Even though the government has adopted policies to achieve equality among the sexes, those policies will fail unless their budgets are sufficient.

International organizations such as the United Nations have begun stressing the importance of "gender-responsive budgets," which refer to the analysis of government expenditures for women and girls compared to men and boys. About 20 countries are conducting gender-responsive budget analyses. In 1994, the Philippine government adopted a policy that requires every agency to allocate at least 5 percent of its budget for gender development programs.

Women's needs should be understood and reflected by policy statements and by a national budget that is drafted to build a gender-equal society. Korean women want employment most of all, according to a survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality. But 29 percent polled said that lack of child care facilities and another 28 percent said that sexual prejudice in our society were the most serious obstacles to their finding work.

The government's 2003 budget has failed to address women's needs, except for the expansion of child care facilities. Unchanged, or reduced, are the budgets for female work force-development centers and campaigns for gender equality. Those budgets should be doubled or tripled. The budget to prevent the sex trade has also been cut, even though the situation warrants an increase.

To achieve gender equality, the Ministry of Planning and Budget should create an internal women's policy office and begin to define women-related budgets in cooperation with the Ministry of Gender Equality.

The writer is the chief of the Korea Women's Association Union.

by Lee Kyung-sook

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