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Anujath lost his mother soon after his painting won the prestigious Shankar’s award for art, but the Kerala govt putting it on their 2020-21 budget manual has made it, and his message about mothers’ invisible labour, go viral.
What makes a little child’s painting to be shared and tweeted by thousands of people across the world?
When Anujath Sindhu Vinaylal, a ten year old child (then) from Kunduvara town in Kerala’s Thrissur district filled his canvas with myriad colors he would never have imagined that his painting would one day adorn the cover of an important document of Kerala government.
Anujath, a highly perceptive child, started painting when he was barely four years old and it was his mother who identified his interest in this creative art and encouraged him to pursue it. He had won several national and international competitions prior to this, but he had taken a break for three years during which he used to paint for himself only. But last year his father, who is a graphic designer himself, sent in his painting for an international competition organized by Shankar’s Academy of Art and Book Publishing, and not so surprisingly Anujath won it.
He says in an interview that his mother was his biggest cheerleader and always encouraged him to better his art. Unfortunately he lost his mother in November 2019. The family is still trying to cope up with their loss, but Anujath is determined to pursue his art on a professional level.
What makes this painting by the class-9 student so special?
Anujath used to see how his mother and neighborhood women kept toiling the whole day and their struggle moved him into recording their tireless but mundane life with his brush.
His vivid depiction of women engaged in fishery and farming in addition to taking care of family members, washing clothes and utensils, cooking and cleaning, tending to pets, grocery and vegetable shopping etc is a recognition of women’s neverending work which is never acknowledged as productive work contributing to the wellbeing of the society.
It’s so heartening that a young boy of 10 could observe what our society and successive governments have resolutely refused to even see.
Therefore it is also heartening to see Kerala government give Anujath’s painting a place of pride on the cover page of its annual gender budget document for the financial year 2020-21.
Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac mentioned Anujath’s painting titled ‘My Mother and Mothers in the Neighbourhood’ while presenting the budget allocation for women empowerment.
Gender responsive budget is not a separate budget but a methodology to guide governments in integrating a gender perspective in the budget. It helps governments to not only identify specific focus areas but also allocate adequate funds which can be used solely for schemes meant only for women. Money allocated under the women composite plan can not be diverted for constructing roads, buildings or even Anganwadi centers.
For a long time now, the Kerala government has been aware of the need to make the budget sensitive to specific needs of women. It had affirmed its commitment to Gender Budgeting in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12) and reiterated it in the 13th Five Year Plan (2017-22) too.
The thrust areas in the 13th Five Year Plan continue to be the economic, social and political empowerment of women, with a greater focus on creating a conducive environment for women in the domain of public employment.
Gender budgeting aims at enhancing every year, allocations for women’s wage employment, self employment and livelihoods, skill development, special facilities at the workplace, child care, building working women’s hostels, ensuring their security at the workplace and protecting them from violence at home and in the public domain.
For this purpose, the government has, this year, allocated Rs 3809 crore for various women’s welfare schemes. This amount is 18.4% of the total budget outlay and is a marked increase over the previous year’s budgets. A major part of the funds will be utilised for strengthening Kudumbashree units, setting up ‘She Lodges’ in every town, and constructing toilets for women. Honorarium of Asha workers is also set to be increased by 500 rupees.
However, not all is as good as it appears. Like most states, funds invariably get diverted, by the local bodies, to other areas despite stringent plan guidelines. According to a CAG report, the local bodies (corporations, municipalities and panchayats) diverted the funds meant exclusively for women to not just anganwadi centers and electrification but also for dispensaries and roads. This was a clear cut violation of guidelines that prohibit the inclusion of schemes and projects which benefit both men and women within the Women Composite Plan.
Hence, it is important to do more stringent monitoring and gender auditing of these schemes as it is critical for setting up mechanisms to assess the gaps in implementation of gender budget commitments as well as refining future gender budgeting strategies and actions.
It is a good sign to see a State Government trying to view women’s contribution to society and economy more holistically, and recognizing their hitherto invisible labor by choosing to place Anujath’s painting as the cover page of its gender budget document.
Whether it is just a symbolic gesture or does the State Government really mean business is yet to be seen. We would be following keenly every development in this regard.
Meanwhile, do share with us if you have similar inspiring stories from your states and cities.
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