Global Resources

Women and local government

Author: S. Coopoo, S. G. Khattak
Publisher: Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan
Publication Date: Jan 1996
How can municipalities address their financial difficulties yet not overburden the poor, particularly poor women? This paper, one of a collection of four papers from the fifth year of the Women's Budget Initiative in South Africa, stresses that local government must have enough money to deliver what they are meant to deliver. It focuses on revenue raised by municipalities directly from their citizens (i.e. user charges and tariffs for services, and rates) and their impact on women and men. Firstly the paper highlights the non-monetary expenses incurred by women in their reproductive duties (sometimes called a ?reproduction tax?) which can be directly affected by whether and what services are provided by local government, and how much they might cost. A ?poverty alleviation toolbox? of four tools is outlined to alleviate the impact of revenue-raising on the poor, and particularly poor women. Cross-subsidisation can, for example, shift income from rates and electricity to help fund health services from which women might particularly benefit. Targeting subsidies or rebates (in the case of property rates) according to gender, race, or income can reduce the burden on those least able to pay. However, very few municipalities have ?indigence? policies which allow low-income households (for example, earning less than R800 per month) to pay less for services. Finally, the setting of a stepped tariff links how much you pay to how much you use of a service, for example how many litres of water you consume. Concerns remain on how some municipalities recover money they are owed by citizens, such as by evictions or service cut-offs. It is recommended that indigence policies and people-friendly credit collection systems would help counteract this.