Gender budget Essay

Gender budget

DEFINITION and PURPOSE.  Gender budget refers to the analysis of the impact of actual government expenditure and revenue on women and girls as compared to men and boys.  It neither requires separate budgets for women, nor does it aim to solely increase spending on women-specific programs.  Instead, it helps governments decide how policies need to be adjusted, and where resources need to be reallocated to address poverty and gender inequalities.  The budget is a policy statement, reflecting a government’s social and economic priorities, and the fulfillment of its political commitment, in monetary terms, to specific programs and policies.

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Although national budgets may appear to be gender-neutral policy instruments, government expenditures and revenue collection have different impacts on women and men. Gender budgeting or gender-responsive budget analysis, provides a way to hold governments accountable to their commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights by linking these commitments to the distribution, use and generation of public resources.

Gender budget initiatives target national, provincial, and municipal processes and may cover the overall budget or selected parts. They can be carried out within government by the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs or other spending ministries, or outside government by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and/or independent researchers. Initiatives with support within and outside of government, operating in dialogue with each other, have proven especially effective.

PURPOSE

1.      Can reveal discrepancies between what a government says it is doing and the actual impact of government policies.

2.      Gender budgets reveal budget priorities.

3.      Provide a means for citizen engagement in public decision-making.

4.      Improves:

Efficiency.  Gender responsive budget reconciles the objectives of gender equality, human development and economic efficiency.
Accountability.  Gender responsive budget initiatives, linking commitments to gender equality to the ways in which governments raise and spend money, provide a concrete way to increase government accountability to all of its people.
Transparency.  Gender responsive budget initiatives engage members of civil society in a vital area of political and economic policy debate, especially women, who are generally marginalized from such discussions.  They can open up the budget-making process and strengthen economic governance.
Equality.  Although national budgets may appear to be gender neutral policy instruments, government expenditures and revenue collection have different impacts on women and men.  A rights-based approach to budgeting helps ensure that gender equality becomes both a goal and indicator of economic governance.  It becomes a tangible measurement of the implementation of CEDAW and other human rights instruments.
5.      Gender budgets offer a practical way for governments to implement their obligations under international human rights agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA) which requires the, “integration of a gender perspective in budgetary decisions on policies and programs, as well as the adequate financing of specific programs for securing equality between women and men.” (PFA 345) and calls on governments to “facilitate, at appropriate levels, more open and transparent budget processes” (PFA 165i)

Gender Responsive Budget Analysis Help Women in:

1.      Making women’s work economically visible.

2.      Showing how revenue collection and changes in tax structure can impact on women differently from men, especially in the case of single mothers and women in the unorganized sector. E.g. In Canada, an NGO demonstrated the differential impact of the current system of tax benefits for private retirement savings on women and men, promoting a campaign to reform the government-sponsored retirement scheme

3.      Creating more transparency and accountability by detailing how money allocated for women is actually spent. E.g. In South Africa, a gender budget analysis showed that despite the Government’s adoption of a domestic violence act, and allocation of 2 million rand for its implementation. Often, governments make such commitments to women’s programs, but with no financial allocations

4.      Providing policy-makers with inputs on differing priorities between men and women on expenditure needs. In 1996, a US NGO called the Women’s Budget Project asked for allocation of national budget resources for the annual health care expenses for 1.3 million American women over the calculated costs of funding F-22 fighter planes for the current year ($2.1 billion)

5.      Increasing productivity and GDP. Between 1983 and 1985, real per capita expenditure on health fell by 16 per cent in Zambia. People had to travel greater distances and wait for longer periods of time to get health care treatment. Interviews with Zambian women about how they used their time revealed that they had to spend more time caring for sick family members, including time spent in hospitals providing meals and nursing care and had less time to spend on farming

HISTORY and DEVELOPMENT.  Gender budgeting was pioneered in Australia with a federal government assessment of the budget impact on women. Interest in gender-responsive budget analysis by both governments and NGOs accelerated, following the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995. The first initiative was launched in South Africa in 1995 by a group of women’s NGOs and a parliamentary joint committee. This was quickly followed by similar initiatives in Uganda, Tanzania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Gender budget initiatives in Tanzania (1997) and Uganda (1999) examine the impacts of structural adjustment programs in these countries and specifically focus on education and health.  Many of the earlier gender budget initiatives focused primarily on the expenditure side rather than the revenue side of government budgets.  Since 1995, there had been gender budget initiatives in more than 60 countries around the world at varying stages of development.

Gender budget initiatives around the world have demonstrated significant successes.  Its work has:

1.      Influenced government spending.  The Australia Women’s Budget (1984-1996), which was a government-led initiative, brought about a significant increase in spending in areas of importance to women. For example, between 1985 and 1996 federal assistance to families with children rose 27% while assistance to the aged rose 24%. There was also a five-fold increase in child care places for working women. Served as an “early-warning system” when neo-liberal agenda took hold. Women’s office was able to identify in advance what areas were likely to be cut and argue against those cuts.

The Philippines Gender and Development budget made a specific requirement that every government agency allocate at least five per cent of its budget to gender and development initiatives while maintaining the large objective of mainstreaming Gender and Development into the remaining 95 per cent of the budget. At the same time all government agencies are required to submit their Gender and Development plans to the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women for approval.

2.      Influenced government policy. A major policy win of the United Kingdom Women’s Budget Group occurred in the March 2002 Budget when the government announced that from 2003 onwards the new Child Tax Credit would be paid to the main carer — usually a woman — rather than to the main earner — usually a man. The group used the slogan, “From the wallet to the purse”(men carry wallets while women carry purses) to argue that giving money to women was more efficient and in-line with government policy on reducing child poverty because women’s money has a greater positive impact on the well-being of children than does man’s. (Unfortunately, this argument was won on the basis of a policy related to children rather than on gender equality.)

The Working for Water Program in South Africa followed the government’s commitment to “integrate gender analysis into budgetary processes”. The Program decided that 60 per cent of all wages should be paid to women, 67 per cent in rural areas and placed a special emphasis on flexible working time for single parents. Of the 42,000 jobs created in the first part of 1998, 55 per cent went to women.

3.      Demonstrated inefficiencies in government spending.  In Korea, a gender budget initiative demonstrated that most of the beneficiaries of training and education programs were leaders or women from women’s organizations. For example, a video conference education program attracted a lot of attention but it was questionable whether the process could affect ordinary women’s lives. Given the high expense of the project, it would have been far more cost-effective and useful to organize lectures within each region or to pay local women’s organizations to organize them.

4.      Highlighted lack of real government commitment to gender equality.  The Korean gender budget initiative demonstrated that some of the Korean government’s women-related policies such as sponsoring beauty contests (over 100 held nationally), courses for girls in make-up, skin care, and etiquette, and the ‘A happy wife and a successful husband’ lecture held at a Women’s Fair actually reinforced stereotypical notions of femininity rather than challenging gender stereotypes and empowering women.

5.      Provided women’s organizations access to government decision-makers.  The United Kingdom Women’s Budget Group has capitalized on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy of participatory government and now has privileged, sustained access to officials in Treasury.

The Tanzanian Gender Networking Program has worked hard to build alliances which had led to a great deal of trust between government and non-governmental 0players. The TGNP now acts as an ongoing consultant to the Ministry of Finance in the area of gender responsive budgeting.

6.      Involved and empowered women to be a part of the budget process and made the budget process more participatory.  The Ugandan gender budget initiative led by the Forum for Women in Democracy has served to make the entire National Budget process increasingly more participatory. Civil society organizations such as the Forum for Women in Democracy and the Uganda Debt Network are members of the Poverty Eradication Working Group under the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development whose mandate is to ensure that government budgets address the needs and concerns of marginalized groups such as women, people with disability, and those living in poverty. Many initiatives have worked with the media to educate the broader population on issues around women’s equality and the budget.

7.      Increased accountability and transparency of government budgets.  The Uganda Gender Budget Initiative’s advocacy campaign contributed to the creation of the Budget Law and Budget Act which has increased involvement in the budget process by both civil society and parliamentarians and provided increased access to government budget documents that would previously have been inaccessible.

Further Developments

1.      Moroccan National Budget includes Gender Report (2006-09) as a result of the collaborative efforts by the Moroccan government and UNIFEM.

2.       (2006-08) – The Ministry of Finances and Economy for Ecuador (MEF) recently made their Budget Guidelines for the 2007 National Budget public that has revealed an unprecedented difference – gender equality appeared as one of the evaluative criteria for the selection of projects to be financed.

3.      (2006-05) – UNIFEM released a report entitled Budgeting for Women’s Rights: Monitoring Government Budgets for Compliance with CEDAW.

4.      UNIFEM publishes “Promoting Gender Equality in New Aid Modalities and Partnerships” (2006-03) that provides a gender analysis of the new aid agenda as outlined in the Paris Declaration

6.      Government of Venezuela to Promote Gender Responsive Budgeting in 2007 Budget (2005-05-24)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“What is a Gender Budget?” UN Platform for Action Committee Manitoba. 2006. Accessed 7 March 2007 http://www.unpac.ca/gender/whatis.html

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