A budget is the most comprehensive statement of a government’s social and economic plans and priorities. In tracking where the money comes from and where it goes, budgets determine how public funds are raised, how they are used and who benefits from them. Therefore, implementing commitments towards gender equality requires intentional measures to incorporate a gender perspective in planning and budgeting frameworks and concrete investment in addressing gender gaps.
Gender-responsive budgeting is not about creating separate budgets for women, or solely increasing spending on women’s programmes. Rather gender-responsive budgeting seeks to ensure that the collection and allocation of public resources is carried out in ways that are effective and contribute to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. It should be based on in-depth analysis that identifies effective interventions for implementing policies and laws that advance women’s rights. It provides tools to assess the different needs and contributions of men and women, and boys and girls within the existing revenues, expenditures and allocations and calls for adjusting budget policies to benefit all groups.
Gender-responsive budget analysis, along with legislation, and other practical policy measures can address gender bias and discrimination. It is a step not only towards accountability to women’s rights, but also towards greater public transparency and can shift economic policies leading to gains across societies.
Since 1997, UN Women has provided support to gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) initiatives, in more than 40 countries. At the forefront of global advocacy for application of GRB, UN Women has built partnerships with UN agencies, the Commonwealth Secretariat, International Development Research Institute, and the Economic Commission, to further efforts at the country level, and demonstrate GRB’s relevance to the Millennium Development Goals, aid effectiveness, public sector reform and financing for development. UN Women also facilitates knowledge-building and maintains the only website exclusively devoted to GRB. Launched in 2001, the portal is widely used by practitioners and represents a comprehensive database of country initiatives and relevant resources.
In Mozambique, work on gender-responsive budgeting helped to address gender
equality gaps in the country’s poverty reduction strategy. Following the call
by women’s organizations to prioritize ending violence against women in the
strategic plan as key to addressing gender inequality, funds were provided
to create facilities for victims of domestic violence in police stations in
all 129 districts. Public expenditure related to health and violence against
women is now tracked by applying a gender perspective. Analysis of the Health
and Interior Ministries Budgets indicate an increase from US$15,000 in 2006
to an expected US$51,000 in 2009, for gender related actions.
In Bolivia, the 1994 Law of Popular Participation established participatory engagement in local development plans and vigilance committees as two of the main citizenship involvement mechanisms at the local level. Supported by UNIFEM (now UN Women), the Instituto de Formación Femenina Integral (IFFI) mobilized members of local women’s groups to use these opportunities and bring gender perspective into local policies. As a result in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where the men have gone abroad to seek better livelihoods, women learnt how to be carpenters and brick layers, and earn a decent living for themselves and their families. While the women worked, their children are taken care of in a sports programme, paid by the local government. Both initiatives resulted from a new focus on gender-responsive budgeting in Cochabamba. IFFI’s advocacy led to the allocation of resources in the municipal budget to services for women’s victims of violence and programmes to promote gender equality. The successful GRB initiative in Cochabamba has been replicated in 11 other municipalities of Bolivia.
In Morocco every second woman does not know how to read or write. To reverse this trend, the Ministry of Education allocated funds to expand the school feeding programmes, extend medical services within schools, distribute books, and provide transport for students living in remote areas. These measures were spelt out in the gender budget statement, the first in the history of Morocco and presented as an annex to the national budget for 2006. The statement outlined how the allocation of public resources will address gender equality priorities. It was a result of the partnership between UNIFEM (now UN Women) and the government aimed at incorporating a gender perspective into the ongoing budget reform process. This also led to the prioritizing of family planning, maternal health clinics, vocational training and increased access to microcredit for women. Ongoing efforts have now resulted in GRB being completely anchored in the national budget reform process, with 21 Ministries taking part in preparations of the gender report that accompanies the annual budget, compared to 4 in 2005.
In India, a UNIFEM (now UN Women)-sponsored workshop was the catalyst for change. In the southern city of Mysore, local residents used to trek five miles and wait two days to see a doctor at a private hospital. Since 2006, they have received medical treatment free of charge at the local government health centre, due to the work of Pushpavalli. She applied the skills acquired at a UNIFEM (now UN Women)-sponsored workshop on gender-responsive budgeting and convinced the authorities to allocate resources for the medical facility. The training attended by Pushpavalli is part of UN Women’s work with governments and local organizations in four states of India to make elected representatives and civil servants aware of the benefits of including a gender perspective in budgets. In many cities, this has led to regular meetings between women, elected representatives and officials to ensure that women’s priorities are addressed in municipal budgets and plans.
For more information on country initiatives and results of UN Women’s gender-responsive budgeting efforts, visit the GRB web portal.