Shari Eshet
Not giving up yet

So you want equality?

Last week I attended an urgent meeting called by the Knesset Committee on the Promotion of the Status of Women and Gender Equality to discuss the government budget and gender equality. Committee chair MK Aida Touma-Sliman explained the urgency  before the Knesset is due to recess at the end of July and before the budget proposal for fiscal year 2015-2016 is tabled in September.

In the last Knesset, women claimed a victory with the 2014 cabinet resolution to view all government ministry budgets through a gender audit. According to the Adva Institute, an NCJW grantee, a gender audit “provides insight into how resources are divided between women and men, and to what extent this division meets the needs and priorities of women and men, girls and boys. In acknowledging that the state budget – the most important tool for distributing resources – is not neutral, but has differential repercussions on men and women, a gender audit of the budget represents a national strategy for promoting the status of women and narrowing gender inequalities in society. “[1] The 2014 cabinet resolution even provided a budget, albeit modest, for the audit. But that was 2014 and that was a different Knesset.

As Touma-Sliman told us, the purpose of her work and the work of her committee is to monitor implementation.  Monitoring implementation is the only solution to achieving the goals of resolutions and legislation that are regarded as just suggestions.  If enacted, each government agency will be instructed  to audit its own offices to make sure that they are indeed  equal opportunity employers for women  and that the work they do and the finances provided  are equally distributed for the good of women and men before they submit their budgets to the Knesset for approval.  Gila Gamliel , minister for  pensioners, students, young people and gender equality, announced that her ministry  will be the first to submit its upcoming budget to a strict gender audit. She plans to bring up the issue in the upcoming Cabinet meeting as a reminder of the resolution taken in the last Knesset cabinet.

It is not enough only to hope that her words are put into action — we need to make sure it happens. I call on everyone who believes that the people of Israel and the state of Israel deserve to be one of the 40 countries in the world who submit their national budgets to a gender audit to make sure she keeps her word. Write to her and speak out on the issue — don’t let the resolution die a “natural” death. In this age of de-legitimization of the state of Israel, implementation of a gender audit (as well as race, religion, sexual preference, and identification, but that’s another story) will go far to highlight the good work done  to advance social change.

Working for over 20 years on gender equality and women’s rights, it is slowly dawning on me that equality means different things to different people.  But mostly, and to most people, equality means more to those who strive to obtain it than to those who think it will affect them negatively. Gender equality is good for all of us. It is good for working mothers; it is good for working fathers. It is good for single parents and it is good for children. It is good for men and for everyone who has a mother, daughter, sister, co-worker. It is good for Jews, for Arabs, for all citizens. It is good.

[1] http://www.adva.org/default.asp?pageid=1002&itmid=856.

About the Author
Shari Eshet is the former director of NCJW's Israel Office, based in Jerusalem. Now a private consultant, she still works for the betterment of the State of Israel.
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