Gender-responsive budgeting: Promoting Gender equality and equality through public expenditure

Simi Mehta and Anshula Mehta

Gender gaps has been observed in the various facets of society and in the system. For instance, there is a difference of 26% in the labor force participation of men and women, globally. A large portion of women’s employment in developing countries is unprotected, unrecognized and informal summing up to 75% of the total women’s employment. According to the data available on the UN website, the gender pay gap globally is 24%. The major chunk of women’s employment is domestic care and unpaid labor which is 2.5 times more than that of men.

In a webinar organized by Gender Impact Studies Center, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), Delhi Post News and Gendev Centre for Research and Innovation, Gurugram on Promoting Gender Equality through Public Expenditure: Understanding Gender-Responsive Budgeting, Dr. Sanghamitra Dhar highlighted the gender gaps in the policies per se and looks at the budgets through the lens of gender. The policies are formulated considering the grassroots realities and with the aim of achieving a collective goal of equality. She emphasizes the need for gendered budgets for achieving gender equality and women empowerment. The gender budgets are top-down from the government.

Promoting Gender Equality through Public Expenditure: Understanding Gender-Responsive Budgeting

While highlighting that gender equality and women empowerment is one of the seventeen sustainable goals of UN, she states that the primary goal is to finance gender equality and women’s rights and to integrate the gendered gaps in the policy-level intervention. Investing and gender budgeting for women’s empowerment is a pre-requisite for any society to prosper and progress. She further emphasized that planning at the national level, budgetary allocations and public expenditure shall respond to women’s need for the very goal of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Gender budgeting is “integrating a clear gender perspective within the overall context of the budgetary process through special processes and analytical tools, with a view to promoting gender-responsive policies” (OECD), 2016). There is a need for a gendered framework to identify gaps and fill them with analytical tools. Gender-responsive budgeting provides that tangible tool, which various actors such as government and NGOs can use to analyze and identify the gendered gaps.

It is a five-step framework that includes analysis of the grassroots reality, assessment of the gender responsiveness, assess the adequacy of the policy being implemented and monitor whether the money is being adequately used. Finally, assess the impact of the policy. A gender analysis tool is required to know the government annual workplan and the budget which ultimately results in the development of gender budget.

The idea of gender budgeting was first adopted in 1985 in Australia and the impetus platform was provided in Beijing. India adopted the idea of Gender budgeting in 2005. In 2015 SDG’s adopted with a specific target of 5.c.1 budget allocations on GEWE and Addis Ababa action agenda for financing the gender budgeting in India as implemented.

Gender budgetary statement includes two parts majorly. In Part A, 100% women-specific schemes are discussed, designed and implemented. In Part B, 30% of allocation is for women or pro-women policies. Dr. Dhar states that the implementation and allocation of budgets also depend on how gendered the department is.

In India, the application of gendered budgets take place at two levels- Union and State government. While recalling the chronological progression of gender responsive budgeting in India, Dr Dhar told a charter was formed in 2007 having women component in development plans. Again it was talked in 2012 and 2013 where development guidelines were formed for the same to be implemented across the country to build a road map. In 2015, ministry of women and child development prepared a handbook which guides states about the implementation of gender responsive budgeting.

Many ministries have introduced many women specific schemes providing infrastructure support and fellowships. The state-level initiatives are taken by government of Kerala, which has developed gender friendly infrastructure and counselling centers for domestic violence victims; Gujarat has Kanya Kelavani scheme to empower women, Maharashtra has women helpline numbers, Rajasthan provides relaxation in registration fees on property, Himachal Pradesh has recognized the deserted women as single women thus giving them pensions and Tamil Nadu has sanitary napkin burning systems in the government aided schools.

However, these initiatives have faced challenges in implementing the policy at three levels. The systemic level challenges are strict timeline of using the union budgets and lack of coordination in inter-ministerial department. The absence of sex disaggregated data, lack of understanding of outcome matrix of gender budgeting and lack of basic understanding of gender among officials is one of the few hindrances that occur at management level. Implementing policy is also affected by the low accountability in the system. There is no proper audit system to monitor the ground reality and lack of will and commitment among the stakeholders is another measure.

GRB initiatives are diverse. It enables the mainstream budgets to bring in the gendered perspective. It gives the platform to governments to think, plan and allocate budgets to contribute to gender equality. It also helps in analysis of impact of policy and budgets on men and women and scrutinize other praxis of social discrimination. 

GRB is the key to GEWE and manifests how the praxis at the grassroots form an integral part of the policy formulation and leads to budget allocation. It is a tool to bridge the gap at policy and at policy level, and a mechanism for the government to be able to make efforts

Dr Dhar states that organizations working on the ground have been facing difficultly in functioning properly due to lack of proper coordination between them and other CSOs and bring them to public domain.

In a query raised by Dr. Mehta, about New Education Policy 2020, Dr. Dhar responded that the policy falls under Part B of the 30% budget but the aspect of quality of education is questionable and there is a massive disparity in the status of education of various states.

Dr Dhar told that Manipur is the newest state to adopt GRB and is working towards gender equity and equality. She presses on the issue that GRB is the need of an hour and shall be included in all policies.

In conclusion, she states an interesting fact that there are lesser number of schemes and there is always scope for more. Policies are lesser because of ineffectuality to affect. Reservation as called affirmative action in west, is important today with the perspective of the equity approach. She says that equality is dream far off. In many areas gender is the last resort which makes it difficult to involve gender in the policies comprehensively and inclusively, whereas implementing these policies is an altogether different issue.

Acknowledgements: Mahima Bansal is a research intern at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi and is working as a junior project fellow in Department of Elementary Education, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi

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