March 2005


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Budgets and financial allocations for development made by governments often do not have specific allocations for gender issues. Nor are they sensitively budgeted to the needs of women. In order for women's groups to advocate for change, not only do they have to move from the basic needs to a basic rights perspective but also move from being recipients of services to getting access and control over the resources needed to achieve equality.

In a comprehensive paper review of “Gender Budgeting, the problems and perspectives”, presented by John R. Bartle from the School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska, Omaha and Marilyn Marks Rubin, John Jay College, City University of New York, in 2002, several country analyses were provided. These have been an eye-opener for many who wish to learn more about gender budgeting.

Learning from other country initiatives
The first gender budget exercise was undertaken in Australia in 1984. It resulted in a comprehensive analysis of federal expenditures (but not revenues). However this effort was shut down in 1996. One of the lessons of the Australian case is that gender sensitive budgeting exercises that are not 'owned' widely by civil society groups are vulnerable to ideological shifts within the state.

In the Philippines, since 1994,
agencies are required to allocate at least 5% of their budgets to “the development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of gender and development plans.” A national commission has published an analysis of expenditures for 19 agencies. Issues that had to be addressed were: need for technical assistance, difficulty in monitoring agency performance, and resistance from budget officers.

The process in South Africa began in 1997, with the participation of several agencies, including revenue collection as well as spending agencies. Measures to improve data collection were necessary. “The experience of South Africa indicates that engendering the national budget is a process which has to be developed over a period of time.” However, it does appear to be having an impact, both in statements of the Director-General of Finance and in the gender-sensitive national budget address. The budget, especially relating to spending, are disaggregated by gender. “This aim is to focus attention increasingly to government outputs and the impact of government expenditure.” In Spain, the government of the Basque Country has shown interest in introducing a gender sensitive budget approach. In 2000 there were two initiatives, which moved the process forward. The Basque Country's women's office, Emakunde, in partnership with the education information technology company, Infopolis, established a virtual library of materials on gender budgets. These materials are available on the web (


In addition, Rhonda Sharp was invited to provide a briefing on gender budgets to the President of the Basque Country, his Finance Minister and senior government officials. In Sri Lanka, five ministries were selected in 1998 to examine the gender impact of recurrent spending, as well as the gender distribution of public sector employment. One common finding was “that a proper mechanism is to be developed to collect data disaggregated by gender”. The procedures and mechanisms identified in this study to gather information, as a continuous process will be used for future policy formulation. Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec) conducted and published the findings in the following year, it is reported that measures to reduce gender bias have been undertaken in the educational, agricultural and industrial sectors.

International agencies support initiatives
Various International agencies have been supporting partners to develop gender budgets in national programmes. The Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec) has had an explicit programme of support for gender budget initiatives since 1996. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) has not had an explicit programme but has, nevertheless, provided support of various kinds under other programme headings. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has more recently become interested in supporting these initiatives, and collaborated with ComSec and Unifem in raising money for, and planning, continued support. The above are the leaders in the field of gender budgeting.

The overall objective of the partners' programme is 'to advocate for and support the engendering of economic governance and leadership in order to increase women's participation in decision-making processes that shape their lives and to respond to challenges emerging from the process of globalisation'.

As gender budgets have been implemented, the developing strategies have been:

  • To improve the analytical tools and sources of data to justify changes in the distribution of both revenues and expenditures between the genders, and
  • To mobilise social groups to become informed and persuasive advocates. It is hoped that these two strategies will be mutually reinforcing.

Gender budgets are intensely political processes. Over 40 countries around the world have responded to norms of preparing and presenting gender sensitive budgets. Looking at the impact and reach to women is the central goal of such gender sensitive budgets.

Since the stakeholders for the advocacy of gender budgets are many, it would be a good idea to begin processes that are informed and sufficient capacity is built at various levels to ensure that the countries initiating gender budgeting programmes for advocacy or advise happen within and outside the governments and are built through intense research and learning from the lessons of other countries.

Debbie Budlender, representing Community Agency for Social Enquiry, South Africa is an expert who has worked and supported gender budgeting programmes in at least ten countries, recently conducted a comprehensive review, case studies and analysis, entitled 'Review of Gender Budget Initiatives'.

This review is a valuable resource for projects and organisations, which are interested in learning the global scenario and adopting the methodology for developing the programmes in their own countries.

India presents its first gender-budget
In India, of the 496 million women, roughly 273 million are old enough to vote, according to a report published by the weekly India Today on the day Indian government presented its budget to the Parliament on February 28, 2005. For the first time this year, the budget proposal presented by the Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram was a welcome one. It promised India's first gender-sensitive budget. In ten demands for grants, the minister made a provision in budgetary expenditure for 2005-06 to the tune of INR 143,790 million (approx USD 3343 million).

However, the women's groups in India have responded critically, commenting that wide-ranging consultations with women's groups are needed. Women's activists have criticised the sops and tokenism that have come by way of cooking gas prices or lower duties for imported cooking vegetable oils. They say it misleads the public. The background to this year's gender budget was a study done by Ashok Lahiri, the current economic adviser to the Finance Minister, in which it is mentioned that in real terms, women get as little as one per cent share of the budgetary allocations. The Lahiri report's experts say, that it demystifies the budgetary allocations, and gender budgeting lays stress on reprioritisation rather than an increase in overall public expenditure. 


This would mean that public spending would be evaluated and gender disaggregated expenditure analysis will be done. Both outputs and inputs are monitored. The above demand by activists and solutions offered are still not matched, but this year's gender budget in India is surely a welcome beginning.

Women activists have been demanding the following:

  • The employment Guarantee Scheme should benefit at least 40 per cent women
  • Of every Rs.100 of public sending, women get 87 paise. This must rise 40 per cent
  • More fund for shelter for single women and those affected by domestic violence
  • Tax sops for single women, women heads of families. More pensions for widows
  • Rural development programmes benefits only two out of 10 women
  • Women dominate the work force in unorganised sector. New social security schemes for them imperative

The Finance Ministry has offered the following solutions:

  • Proposal is being considered specific allocations exist but women argue that they are too little
  • 18 ministries have been asked to submit gender wise expenditure for an action plan
  • New incentives for investment in hostels, shelters and tax deductions for hostel residents
  • New tax-saving instructions and concessions are being considered
  • Ministries will be asked to ensure that at least four out of 10 beneficiaries are women
  • Labour Ministry may be asked to set up a panel to look into the options

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