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January 6, 2019

The need for gender budgeting: Part - I

Opinion

January 6, 2019

Why does gender budgeting need to be reintroduced in Pakistan? We all know about the lofty policy statements made by governments about the promotion of gender equality. Given those, why is there a need for gender budgeting?

First of all, gender budgeting does not merely mean giving money to women and girls in a rather crude sense. The literature on gender budgeting (Welham et al, ODI, 2018; Stotsky, 2016; ILO, 2006) clarifies it is a way to re-conceptualise the entire budgeting process by using fiscal policy and administrative measures to enhance the overall gender equality and development of girls and women. It is based on a differential situational analysis of women and men, and ascertains whether the process of budgeting and affiliated policies are perpetuating, worsening or reducing the existing inequalities between women and men.

Therefore, gender budgeting needs to be seen more than just dishing out money to women. There is a strong view (Chakraborty, Ingrams, Singh, 2017) that gender budgeting is a way of promoting overall equity, development and human rights in society. Since women and girls are often in a disadvantageous position in terms of social, political and economic development; gender budgeting is a process to reduce those disparities and promote equitable development in society by advancing the needs to children, households and society through a prioritised focus on women and girls.

If men and boys are in a certain disadvantageous situation (Stotsky, 2016) such as on the indicators of reproductive health and prevalence of HIV; gender budgeting should also prioritise their needs in that sectoral setting. Instituting a robust mechanism for gender budgeting also helps countries comply with the international human and women rights conventions such as CEDAW; the Beijing Platform for Action on Women, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More than 80 countries around the world have tried some facet of gender budgeting. It was started off by Australia in 1984, followed by South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, amongst others. In South Asia, India has quite a strong model of gender budgeting and Bangladesh has also experimented with it. Pakistan had a pilot phase from 2005-07, followed by some other measures over the years.

Different countries have taken varied routes to institute gender budgeting (Stotsky, 2016; Chakraborty, 2010; Chakraborty, 2016). Some have started to collect sex-disaggregated data and built-in information on the differential needs of girls and women into budget classification and evaluation. However, getting timely sex-disaggregated data is a real challenge in many places. Other countries, as a way of gender budgeting, have changed their fiscal programmes and policies with an aim to narrow gender gaps and advance women’s development.

Overall, gender budgeting is often reduced to setting up administrative units or conducting trainings with a focus on the ‘inputs’ into the financial system in terms of allocations rather than having a focus on the ‘outcomes’ or ‘impact’ that can ascertain that the fiscal efforts have led to closing the gender gaps. Only a few countries have achieved substantive fiscal policies and accompanying administrative processes that yield to results-based programming. Rwanda is one such country. Rarely is gender budgeting backed by relevant legislation. Korea and the Philippines have instituted gender budgeting through a law, which is not common.

Gender budgeting often entails sectoral focus on education and health and other line ministries. It is worth noting that expenditure on one aspect of women’s welfare has a positive complementarity to other aspects. As Chakraborty, Ingrams, Singh, 2017 state that increase of one percent public spending on women’s education leads to reduction of the maternal mortality rate (MMR) by 23 percentage points. Similarly, an increase in female literacy leads to more female labour force participation. A one percent increase in the public spending on health leads to a 1.39 percent increase in female labour force participation.

As per literature, Pakistan pilot-tested gender budgeting from 2005-07 under the Medium-Term Development Framework. The initiative was housed in the Ministry of Finance and the finance departments of the Punjab and Sindh governments. Gender-aware policy appraisals were produced in education, health, and population welfare and it was pilot-tested in only three districts: Gujrat, Rajanpur and Jacobabad.

Amendments in budget call circulars for the federal and Punjab government were introduced in 2007-08. Much of the focus has been on awareness-raising, advocacy, trainings and some gender analysis and research as well. A Time Use Survey was conducted in 2007 to capture the usage of non-market time spent by women in fulfilling their reproductive roles.

The pilot-phase of gender budgeting in Pakistan faced issues of lack of expertise, non-availability of compilation of data in a timely manner, lack of ownership and institutionalisation of Gender Budget Statements after consultants phased out. There was a need to extend both the coverage and the scope of gender budgeting in Pakistan.

In the second phase of gender budgeting from 2008-2012, according to Chakraborty (2016), Pakistan embedded gender-targets in the “output-based budgeting system” across all ministries at the national level. It supported improvements on the statistical reporting of the Millennium Development Goals for Pakistan. After this second phase, the federal government did some more work on gender-disaggregated analysis and undertook gender-responsive overview of the budget for FY2015-16. It led to a baseline to promote gender equality in education and labour force participation with a scope to its applicability at the provincial level.

While the PTI government is in negotiation with the IMF for another financial bailout package, it is time to reintroduce gender budgeting in Pakistan on the basis of a robust analysis of social, political, and economic gender gaps and sectoral overview of federal, provincial and local governments’ planning and implementation landscape/machinery.

Gender-budgeting efforts have historically been donor-driven in many countries. It is time the present government came up with a nationally conceptualised and owned gender budgeting process to promote gender equality and overall equity and fairness in our society.

To be continued

The writer is an Islamabad-based social scientist.

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