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What is gender-responsive budgeting?

Gender-responsive budget analysis simply refers to the analysis of actual government expenditure and revenue on women and girls as compared to men and boys. Gender budgets are not separate budgets for women and they don't aim to solely increase spending on women-specific programmes. Gender budget analysis helps governments decide how policies need to be adjusted, and where resources need to be reallocated. Gender budget analysis provides women with an indicator of government commitment to address women's specific needs and rights to health care, education and employment.

Why Gender Budgets?

a) Gender-responsive budget initiatives promote 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.

b) Gender-responsive budget initiatives promote Accountability

The recent reviews of progress in achieving gender equality as a result of the major international conferences of the 1990s - including the International Conference on Population and Development, the World Summit for Social Development, and the Fourth World Conference on Women - have shown mixed results. 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. Gender-sensitive budgets are important instruments for making governments accountable to women and ensuring that governments live up to the commitments they have made in international conferences and in a variety of policy statements. — Budgets As If People Mattered, 2000 Efficiency Mounting evidence shows that gender inequality leads to major losses in economic efficiency and human development. Macroeconomic policy can increase, reduce, or leave unchanged the losses to society from gender inequality, primarily through adjustments in fiscal policy, including both revenues and expenditures. Thus gender responsive budget policies can go far to reconcile the objectives of gender equality, human development and economic efficiency. Recognising gender inequality as an efficiency issue does not mean seeing women as a resource to be used for increasing productivity and growth. Rather the message is that if women themselves have more control over resources there will be gains for society as a whole; but if gender inequality persists, there will be continuing losses for society as a whole. — Diane Elson, 1999

c) Gender-responsive budget initiatives promote 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 marginalised from such discussions. They can open up the budget -making process and strengthen economic governance. Gender budget initiatives are a reflection of the transition to more open, participatory and responsive systems of governance. There is increasing interest in giving the poor and excluded a political voice, and influencing allocation of public resources in favour of them. Democracy has come with the expectation not only of participation and inclusion but also of freedom from poverty. — Winnie Byanyima, MP-Uganda, 2000

Who has applied gender-responsive budget analysis so far?

Gender-responsive budget analysis was pioneered in Australia in 1994, 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. Today there are over 40 initiatives worldwide at varying stages of development.

How do gender responsive budget analyses help women?

It makes women's work economically visible. It shows 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, speaking to a parliamentary finance commission, 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. It creates 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 programmes, but with no financial allocations. It provides 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). It increases 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.

What are some examples of Gender-Responsive Budget Initiatives worldwide?


In France, the Budget Act of 2000 requires the government to submit an annex to the Budget each year specifying allocations earmarked to promote gender equality. The gender budget analysis prepared by the French Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry, shows that in 2000, 31 percent of working women held part-time jobs, as compared with 5 per cent of men. The report shows that women who worked part time did not do so by choice - especially women raising children on their own, who headed 84 percent of single parent families in 1997. The report concludes that these trends have resulted in the increasing feminization of poverty.

The Philippines

In 1994, the Philippines Government adopted a gender and development budget policy that requires every government agency to allocate at least 5 per cent of its budget for gender and development. The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) spearheaded the initiative, working closely with an active and supportive women's movement. In 1999, the government introduced a performance based budgeting policy that reduced the budget of agencies not in compliance by a minimum of 5 per cent. Between 1995 and 1998, the number of reporting agencies rose from 19 to 69 (out of a total of 349) and the allocations to women tripled. Yet even with this three-fold increase, the report concluded that, during the same period, the gender and development budget was still less than 1%; far below the 5% target. Sweden In Sweden, every ministry, including the Ministry of Finance, are expected to set gender equality objectives and targets within their programmes proposed in the budget bill. Each year, the Ministry of Finance makes a special report on the distribution of economic resources between women and men in the Government Budget Bill. Sweden's commitment to provide decent childcare at an affordable price, for example, can be seen in its budget: it spends almost 2 per cent of GDP on publicly provided childcare and has one of the highest rates of female employment in Europe.


The Tanzanian Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) spearheaded one of the most successful civil society initiatives, as part of an NGO coalition. For three years, TGNP traced the process of national planning and resource allocation, assessing its impacts on women and men, youth and the elderly. In 1999, the Ministry of Finance hired TGNP to develop the capacity of officials to carry out gender analysis within six budget areas, including Health, Education, Water, Agriculture, Community Development and Local Government. The analysis found, for example, that half of the maternal and child health projects between 1989 and 1996 were dependent on bilateral donors and international organizations. The United Kingdom In the UK, the Women's Budget Group (WBG) has been active since 1989, issuing press releases on every budget and working to put questions on gender and budgets on the policy agenda. WGB, an informal think tank of researchers and members of women's and trade union organizations, focuses primarily on changes in the tax and social security systems that disadvantage women. A gender budget analysis of New Deal programmes in the UK revealed that only 8 per cent of funding for these programmes go to "lone parents," of whom 95 per cent are female. Yet 57 percent of funds go to young people, of whom only 27 percent are female. Since the election of a Labour government in 1997, the group has had regular meetings with politicians and officials to discuss the implications of fiscal policy for women.