Gender Budgeting has captured the interest of different actors and countries throughout the years. Often, we hear and read reports where “gender budgeting”, “gender-responsive budget,” and “gender-sensitive budget” are mentioned but what does it all mean? And why should we care? Well, let us delve into what Gender Budgeting is from an expert’s lens.

Motivations Behind Gender Budgeting

It all began in 1979, when the United Nation’s General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Since the roll-out of the CEDAW, 143 out of the 155 adopted the convention into their own country laws. Although, promises to combat gender disparities were made, evidence show that various forms of discrimination continue to persist in social norms, gender-based stereotypes, and laws and policies.

Later, human rights activists recognized that ratifying international conventions were not the sole tool to combat gender disparities. Every action governments intend to implement needs a budget, and gender budgeting initiatives have been pursued in various forms over many years. Australia pioneered and piloted attempts at gender budgeting from 1984 and onwards in response to calls from women rights activists. Since the adoption of the convention, over 90 countries have experimented with some form of gender budgeting in the past decade. In 2013, Austria introduced Gender Budgeting as part of their broader package of performance budgeting reforms.

Moreover, with the new global 2030 roadmap and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the UN in 2015, Goal 5’s aim is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Therefore, the SDG’s introduced a new indicator on Gender Budgeting which is: “Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment”. In this context, any UN member state will be committed to achieve the targets of Goal 5 by 2030. Also, any failure in this area will leave negative impact on the country’s global scoring and ranking.

Conceptual Facts on Gender-Responsive Budget (GRB)

For those who are not familiar with gender-responsive budgeting (GRB), the first thought that comes to mind is that gender budgeting is associated with serving women only! When in fact, Gender- Responsive Budget is looking at budgets from a gender perspective. It does not mean allocating a specific budget to women and a specific budget to men to achieve a purpose or a plan. Rather, it is taking into account the gender perspective component during the planning and the implementation stages in order to respond to the specific needs of both women and men and let them have equal opportunities and accessibility to services and jobs. One way to address the gender disparity and to meet Goal 5 on Gender Equality of the Sustainable Development Goals is to use Gender-Responsive Budgeting in the area of public financial management.

Budgets tend to mitigate consequences rather than address the root causes of issues. Often, budgets alone fail to ask questions such as, “Do women and men have equal access to resources and do both benefit from the resource use?” and “Do women and men participate in decision-making?” Not incorporating gender perspective in budgets for public-funds to finance programs and services is problematic in the long-term. This is because gradually social issues will be ignored, meaning that some groups will be left out from the decision-making process and will not be considered during the formulation of policies. Thus, assessing the budget from a gender perspective is an added layer that will provide more inclusive information of serving the needs of all people. Therefore, before allocating funds, it is imperative that we ask what are the key issues that we would like to solve? How will allocating funds impact the daily quality of life for women and men?

Gender-Responsive Budgeting improves economic governance and financial management. It provides feedback to governments on whether they are meeting the needs of different groups. In addition, it provides feedback to actors outside of the government, GRB can be used to encourage transparency, accountability, and participation. The disaggregated data from Gender-Responsive Budgets can be used for different purposes including advocacy and providing information for better decision-making on policies. The data can also be used as a transparency tool to help civil society and other groups to monitor and to bring it to political leaders’ attention when policies and decisions are not inclusive, often leaving already disadvantaged groups worse-off. To better understand what Gender-Responsive Budgeting is and how it is used as a tool in public finance, what gender analysis entails, and what the existing gender-relevant indicators are, we consulted with DevTech’s own expert on Gender Budgeting, to shed light on this very important and multifaceted topic.

As our Gender Budgeting expert, Arwa Al-Najdawi, explains, Gender-Responsive Budgeting is an application of gender mainstreaming in the budgetary process. It means:

  • a gender-based assessment of budgets;
  • incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process;
  • restructuring expenditures and revenues in order to promote gender equity and equality.

In this context, Gender Budgeting is not merely a fiscal tool but an economic and social tool that aims to enhance citizens welfare. Through, (1) public awareness, understanding gender issues, and the overall impacts of public spending citizens; (2) Changing and modifying government budgets and national policies to be more gender sensitive; and (3) holding governments accountable for their gender budgetary and policy commitments (locally, nationally and internationally) by identifying gender relevant indicators into budget documents and linking them with the desired gender targets within the national policies and international standards.

Core Pillars of Gender Budgeting include:

  • Data Availability: the availability of sex-disaggregated data is essential for analyzing and assessing budgetary impacts. This can involve better utilization of existing data (including census and relevant parties collected data) and the collection of new data (such as time use data, community data, official statistical data).
  • Monitoring & Evaluation System: In order to enhance Gender Budgeting a National Monitoring & Evaluation system should be in place embedded with gender relevant indicators to track the efficiency and effectiveness in public spending and take the proper measures to bridge the gender gap. Some examples of gender relevant indicators include; wage equality for similar work, women in Parliament, prevalence of gender violence, life expectancy age (female/male), gender gap in labor force participation, and gender employee ratio (female/male) in the public sector.
  • Reporting: Analyzing the budget from a gender perspective helps the government to recognize the different socio-economic roles, features, and needs of women, men, boys, and girls in society. Periodical reporting on Gender Budgeting and performance indicators will enable policy makers to formulate sound policies and allocating enough budgets to close the gender gap.

If gender budgeting is implemented correctly and effectively, some of the predictive outcomes of this tool include:

  • Health: Budgeting to build hospitals, health centers, and hire medical professionals specifically in remote and rural areas, will enable all citizens to get good quality of health services. Governments can also take into consideration through the budgeting process the needs of specific gender age groups like children (girls and boys), elderly (females & males), and vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities. On the national level some of the desired outcomes that could be achieved are increasing the life expectancy age and reducing the mortality rates.
  • Politically: Specific budget allocations to conduct sessions on raising political awareness in schools, universities, and local communities, will ultimately lead to an increase in women’s’ participation in the political arena.
  • Economic Participation of Women: Budgeting to implement effective measures to attract women to the labor market by creating pre-school and kindergarten classrooms at workplaces, promoting secured and friendly transportation, and enforcing strict penalties on employers that violate laws combating sexual harassment at workplace. In the end, these measures will lead to increased women’s economic participation in the labor market.
  • Unemployment between youth with low educational attainment: Budgeting to establish vocational training centers with equipment to improve the capabilities of both males and females and engage them in the labor market. This will lead to reduce unemployment rates, combat poverty, and empower all citizens economically and socially. It is recommended that in order to increase awareness on GRB, training sessions are provided at all levels for example: including the Budget Officers and Monitoring and Evaluation officers at the Ministry of Finance and other implementing ministries. Additionally, creating a friendly parliament to gender budgeting will promote the public debate on the budget from a gender perspective. In this context, building the capacities of Parliament Members in this area will enhance the Gender-Responsive Budget.

Lastly, advocating for communities’ participatory approach in preparing the budget from a gender perspective will result in meeting the specific gender needs within each community. As development practitioners and advocates of gender equality, we should remember to include gender in our programs and projects in all stages, including in the designing, planning, and implementation of budgets, for long-term sustainability.