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Gender-responsive Budgeting: Impact on Gender Equality

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Finance
Wordcount: 4119 words Published: 23rd Mar 2021

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 Since the mid-1980s, a number of developing countries have applied gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) in many diverse extents and distinct practices. Gender budgeting is the government’s economic strategy seeking to exercise the country’s national and local budget as an instrument in resolving gender disparities and promoting inclusive development. It does not create independent budgets for women and men, rather, it studies the different impacts of the budget between women and men in an attempt to establish innovative revenue policies and allocations in promoting improved impartiality and fairness relative to gender equality (Chinkin 2001; Stotsky 2016a).

According to Chakraboty (2014), a gender-responsive budget is a style to administration and financial policies translating gender-related obligations to financial assurance by identifying institutional mechanisms, developments, and incomes, that impact expenditures and budget revenues equally.

This paper analyses GRB’s impact on gendered results and resource allocation within the bodies of the government.  The literature explores several factors exploring the advantages on the impact of GRB where there is improved gender equality dynamic in the budget process and better outcomes in the budget, policy, and service delivery relative to gender. Conversely, several factors such as shortage in gender-disaggregated data and gender relations data, insubstantial resources and capacity, and insufficient knowledge on the institution and ineffectuality affecting the impact of GRB will also be discussed. Cases from some countries are also cited as a basis on evidence for the impact. The literature concludes that GRB must not be a one-time activity; there are possibilities of expanding it if the government takes time to advocate and refine it and consider the broadness of GRB’s scope.

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According to scholarly reviews, the influence of GRB has been a mixture of positive and limited (Nallari & Griffith 2011) positive impact. Notably, there was no evidence of an adverse effect. Elson & Sharp (2010) contend that GRB is exceptional in its capability in going beyond policies and regulations focusing on resources essential to its execution. Budlender (2009) affirms that GRB contributes in conjunction with other involvements to promote gender equality and alleviate the ‘evaporation of gender policies’, i.e. the trend of using gender words only to be disregarded during the implementation. Also, although GRB will not be able to meet its goals of altering allocation in the budget, it may ‘thrive without accomplishment by instigating development on gender equality, that will trigger transparency in budget engagement and establish that inequalities in gender do not create a decent sense in the economy’ (OECD 2010, p.3).

A remarkable feature of GRB is its emphasis on poverty alleviation in addition to equal rights (Botlhale 2011). Although it is not the solution to reducing poverty, according to Elson & Sharp (2010), GRB can be a crucial component in policy-making approaches to end poverty among women. Further, they point out that GRB helps in improving the worth of process in budget decision-making particularly in putting emphasis on how to increase awareness on the budget’s agenda and how transparent and accountable the budget’s implication in the realisation of gender equality.

Increased awareness, capability, and data on gendered budgets

GRB has been effective at spreading awareness relative to issues in gender on budgets. Muchabaiwa (2010) provides evidence of how GRB has led to a constant increase in the allocation of budget on matters that directly benefit women in Zimbabwe, which reflects better prioritisation on issues of women in the national budget. Some resources have also been reserved for a gender awareness campaign and gender focal persons. Elson & Sharp (2010) reveal that GRB has emphasised issues that are commonly overlooked in a conformist analysation of budget and in making decisions. Issues ranging from unpaid work in societal and profitable outcomes, resource allocation within, amongst families, and the involvement of women and men in the decision-making processes in budgets.

Stephenson (2018) adds that GRB assisted legislators on the idea of looking at budgets from a gender equality perspective. Elson & Sharp (2010) have provided Uganda as an example. The Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), a budget group operated by women, create briefings that analyses budget from the perception of underprivileged women and lobbied them to legislators. Issues in gender have been given priority highlighting integrity and value. Muchabaiwa (2010) has also drawn experience in Zimbabwe, where the result of GRB in an amplified self-confidence and capabilities on gender and budgeting among parliamentarians, community organisations, and the public. In a similar case, Bangladesh has introduced budget strategies requiring legislators to take into consideration the demands of poor women. It has led to the Ministry of Finance to oblige government departments and offices to assess their function contrary to the goals in the reduction of poverty strategy relative to gender and poverty; this resulted to the integration of those strategies to the Budget Call Circular (Chakraborty 2014).

Downes et. al (2016) also advocate that GRB provides data that can be utilised in advocating towards the equality of men and women, as evidenced in Tanzania. Since 1997, the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) has been analysis the budget allocation of the country understanding poverty from a gendered perspective. The TGNP has influenced the government in conducting analysis in gender built in the planning of budget (Stotsky et al. 2016). This action resulted to the government to have a better obtainability of a gender-disaggregated data on poverty and the National Bureau of Statistics incorporating a time use survey in the context of the 2005 labour force survey to ‘make unpaid work for women more evident’ (Combaz 2013).

Improved budget transparency, people-to-people engagement, and accountability

Budlender & Hewitt (2003) argue that GRB has been successful to some extent in improving transparency, people-to-people engagement, and accountability in the budget, incorporating a high demand for gender equality. They point out that GRB has managed to better governance in the economy and financial affairs in general and has supplied criticisms to governments on whether or not they have met the demands of women and men, girls and boys.

Elson & Sharp (2010) stress that GRB has also helped intensify underprivileged women’s capacity in playing a vigorous role in the budget formulation – this has been predominantly pertinent as some countries; disadvantaged women are voted to office and councils among villages have increased in numbers. Elson & Sharp (2010) has provided an example from India through the Karnataka Women’s Information and Resource Centre, supported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The centre trained and collaborated with underprivileged councillors – many of whom are uneducated to build budgets from the grassroots level. Through this, GRB can help in facilitating disadvantaged women’s participation in planning the budget at the grassroots level. Further, it introduces processes requiring policymakers to take into account the needs of disadvantaged women.

Gendered outcomes in the budget, policy, and delivery of service

 One of the contributing factors of GRB is the change in budgetary and its priorities in conformity with gender equality. Yet, according to Budlender (2009, p. 42), the expectation of such modifications from GRB would be ‘asking for too much.’ Combaz (2013) argues that although GRB has had notable achievements, incidentally, even if it is just one tool, it does not, however, withstand that it is a needed one. However, she further argues that the understanding, clarity, and liability that GRB has created directed changes in budget and policy which are geared towards gender equality. This is supported by Elson & Sharp (2010), adding that GRB in some countries has improved service delivery on top of the funding. Mishra (2011) cited the city of Kerala in India as example where they altered allocations in budget supporting gender equality in infrastructure, often overlooked in gender policies, food, and revenue. Similarly, Ecuador’s Cuenca municipality has allotted budget for its gender equality plan and has promoted the increase of employing women in project investments.

Analysing a gendered budget is a complicated task, Budlender (2009) cited several sectoral cases where health care and education have been chosen as a priority in fostering gender equality. Nallari & Griffith (2011) note that these prioritised sectors are given much attention due to the relativity of their budgetary scope and their role in women’s well-being and those they offer the care for. For example, Indonesia has been using GRB in improving maternal healthcare at the regional and local areas. In South Lombok, the allocated budget improved in a 3 to 4 year-span, with resources granting more to the midwives’ salaries (set against doctors) and to the midwives’ sanitary paraphernalia and motorcycles (rather than hospital buildings and ambulances). Elson & Sharp (2010) also provided an example in South Africa, where the finance ministry found that over 40 per cent of the employees working in the Community-Based Public Works Programme were women in 1988. Upon evaluation, they found that women hold unskilled jobs, with lower than average wages, and were retained in position for brief periods, and were unlike to have received training. This urged the Ministry of Finance to use the evaluation to tailor-fit their programmes and improve their targets.


 While GRB’s literature usually has been taking a supportive stance instead of unfavourable approach, several criticisms have been noted by some scholars which have been derived from the political sphere – the uncertainty of public servants in initiating change, and little prioritisation concerning gender (Hinds 2014). In the early 2000s, India has institutionalised GRB, yet a remarkable gap between what was intended and what has been accomplished has been indicated by experts. According to Mishra & Sinha (2012), the government implemented two approached in the institutionalisation of GRB which did not instigate changes in finance - the Gender Budget Statement (GBS) AND Gender Budgeting Cells (GBC). While GBS aims to recognise allocations in the budget that considerably benefit women, GBC was formed in government ministries and visualised as being the pivotal purpose in GRB gender mainstreaming. Mishra & Sinha (2012) identified three issues affecting GRB’s success: first, substantial organisational GBS inaccuracies and no mechanisms relative to auditing or monitoring were prepared- resulting to difficulty in assessing the fulfillment or dissatisfaction of GBS; second, GBS’s format – directly measurable – was not able to encapsulate complexities in gender relations and had insignificant propositions to policymakers concerning the formulation of added steps in making schemes or policies gender-responsive; third, little prioritising was given to gender issues. Although it was recognised as an urgent concern, gender issues were frequently referred to as a supplementary category and caused policymakers who were incapable of dedicating their time in ensuring the success of GRB to be responsible of its achievement, or too subordinate in garnering the buy-in mandated by high ranking officers (Mishra & Sinha 2012). Hinds (2014) also argue that GRB setbacks occur when it is a sole obligation of a person, instead of focussing on fostering institutional capacities.

In an article published by Austen et al. (2013), they analysed GRB’s impact on Timor-Leste’s public spending on education. The practice of GRB included the usage of gender-disaggregated expenditure incidence analysis (EIA) – an instrument found to be a valuable indicator of the disparities of expenditure in education. Yet, the usage of EIA in decision-making and budgetary processes was hindered by barriers ranging from politics, culture, and technicality. This include government partners questioning the data’s credibility used during the analysation process – the EIA used school attendance in the data collection from the Timor-Leste Living Survey. Still, actors in government preferred their regulatory documents.

Additionally, executive officers opposed the results of EIA because they were not familiar with the use of its methodology. Austen et al. (2013, p.16) also noted the hindrance in the phasing or timing of processing the budget. They indicate that the Timor-Leste’s budget rules allowed only ‘restricted choices of admission in influencing processes and decisions.’ They further added that usually, proposals have higher chances of being incorporated if the evaluation has been obtained at a time when ministries are discussing on recent measures in the budget, instead of if the EIA has been presented outside of this short timeframe.

Austen et al. (2013) also noted the government stakeholders’ concerns being unwilling in the integration of gender equality in the allocations of budget and policy, failing to assume responsibility, reasoning that only parties in the gender unit are sole responsible in addressing issues in gender.  The last hindrance cited by the authors was the inadequate engagement of feminist movements in activism and culpability. They have concluded that ‘GRB in essence a political sphere just as it is a practical implementation, and its incorporation in the decision-making process is vital for GRB in reaching its fullest capacity in reality’ (Austen et al. 2013, p.17).

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Shortage in gender-disaggregated data and gender relations data

 The lack of sex-disaggregated data has been consistent in the identification of the limitations of meaningful GRB policies and programmes (Johnson et al. 200; Johnson 2009b; UN Women 2012). Sarraf (2003) identified three categories of gender-sensitive expenditures in government: (1) gender-specific spending; (2) civil service expenditures promoting gender equality; and (3) usual and conventional expenditures. He noted that 99 per cent of the expenditure in the government typically falls in the last category – making analysis in gender highly condemning, i.e. considering the different impacts of sectoral allocation on women and men, girls and boys. Yet, this analysation has frequently been disputing due to the inadequacy of sex-disaggregated data. On the contrary, Elson & Sharp (2010) observe that expenditures in some countries targeting women and girls have been overemphasises. Also, Budlender (2009) reveals that the indicators were chosen and used in budgets and its impacts of issues in gender are multifaceted, drawing experiences from Nepal and India.

In 2012, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) organised an internal evaluation on GRB activities in India and found that the primary limitation in implementing a gender budget analysis was the lack of sex-disaggregated data. Deprived of such data, budget analysts struggle to verify the needs of women and whether or not the policies have met their requirements. Similarly, Johnson et al. (2009b) found that the lack of sex-disaggregated data hindered the advancement in gender indicators in Senegal.

Another challenge is how gender surveys, an essential tool for planning the budget, typically have restricted coverage and scope in many developing countries (Nallari & Griffith 2011). Additionally, Hans et al. (2008), drawing from the experience of India, noted that the lack of data does is not only applicable on gender, but also some structural unfairness such as disability, and their intersections (e.g. disabled women).

Insubstantial resources and capacity

Implementing a gendered budget analysis is an intricate undertaking. Nallari & Griffith (2011) contend that selecting a suitable intervention considering on its impartiality and effectivity can be complicated. Preferences involve reforms in law, new tax policies, funding, and improved spending. Stotsky (2006) maintains that in fostering gender equality through women’s education and health care, the government must promote special activities or offer services.

Practically, GRB requires numerous resources; it includes pre- and post-budgeting instruments and training for budget officers (Nallari & Griffith 2011). Sarraf (2003) explains that financial and technical help from international organisations does not include spending for the training of workers in the budget preparation process of the government, particularly in expenditure agencies in the national and local government, on top of meaningful surveys.

An evaluation carried out by UNIFEM (cited in Johnson et al. 2009) has cited some examples from countries where capacity building strategies have had low efficiency in the promotion of GRB. This was in association with the shortage of monitoring and evolution disallowed diverse outlooks on capacity building in reconciliation with pieces of evidence. The experience of UN Women in India has revealed that the absence of resources has been challenging for GRB processes. Specifically, projects or programmes were short-staffed or operated by people whose technical competence in GRB is limited (Budlender & Hewitt 2002). Evaluators recommend that a tailor-fit approach to the tools and training, in collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs), will better address this challenge.

Insufficient knowledge on the institution and ineffectuality

A common issue involving people working on GRB is that they do not influence in changing the budgets (Budlender 2005; Johnson et al. 2009). This subject is seeming critical when initiatives in GRB include either ministry in gender or gender focal persons – whom under the circumstances are assigned in executive or human resource departments or manned by individuals who are too subordinate to be making decisions (Budlender, 2005). Most often than not, restrictions in each gender ministry occur, and the people involved are not proactively engaged in GRBs because of its highly versed nature.

Drawing from Nigeria’s experience, UN Women (2012) found that because of the insufficient knowledge on the institution among administrative departments and officials of ministries, and the high staff turnover, GRB’s impact has been limited. Johnson et al. (2009) assert that the programmes have disproportionately focussed on working with CSOS, disregarding an active engagement to government officials in decision-making positions. UN Women (2012) establishes that within numerous ministries, it is uncertain whose responsibility GRB is and what they are assumed to do.


 There is clear evidence that GRB has assisted CSOs and women activities in placing the call for an improved allocation in the budget for gender equality and other concerns relative to equity. While it has given the government space in building up gender-disaggregated data, more continued effort is needed in ensuring that data are utilised in guiding efficient programmes and policies.

GRB initiatives must start from finance ministries adequately supported by different stakeholders – policymakers, academics, civil society, and the public. Although the sectoral ministries’ usual task is implementing the strategic policy in sectoral budgets, equal rights among women and men, girls and boys, is a cross-cutting aspiration whose success will depend on how all sectoral ministries implement it.

This paper concludes that GRB cannot be just a one-time activity; advocating and refining must be taken in time and considering the broadness of its scope, there are possibilities of expanding it. GRB must be looked beyond the social sector, and the government needs to engage at every level - central to local.


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