Have You Ever Heard About Gender-Responsive Budgeting?

Gender equality can be achieved in diverse ways. One of them is through the application of gender-responsive budgeting in policymaking. But what is gender-responsive budgeting and what does it mean for women and men, specifically?

There is a long-term excuse that societies and countries have used for such a long time now, saying that the budget of a state is neutral, and it doesn’t really have to do with ‘only women’ or ‘only men’.

But how true is that really? Is the budget really neutral, in countries where men are the ones benefiting the most from economic and social development measures, due to existing patriarchal and social norms?

For instance in Kosovo, where I come from, the pandemic recovery economic measures did not really favor women, because the social assistance schemes are designed in such a way that the head of the household gets to benefit from the financial assistance schemes. According to certain research in Kosovo, these social assistance schemes tend to leave women more vulnerable, since women really need the money more than their husbands, brothers, or other men in their lives — due to the fact that they have to take care of their children, and the burden of care responsibilities is usually assigned to them. Of course, this comes with a major economic cost for them, yet, women worldwide continue to be mostly dependent on their husbands, fathers, or brothers financially. 

This scenario can change. There’s a new tool that the EU is asking countries to implement, and that is gender-responsive budgeting (GRB). In fact, GRB was first introduced at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing, China, to inculcate in decision-makers the principle of looking at national budgets through a gendered lens. Lately, as per the EU Gender Action Plan, EU Member States must take steps to introduce and include GRB in their budget systems, which represents a huge step toward advancing the gender equality agenda. 


What Is Gender-Responsive Budgeting?

Let’s make it clear that gender-responsive budgeting does not mean a budget specifically for women. Nor does it mean that men’s needs will be completely ignored and that only women would benefit if all countries implemented GRB.

The UK Women’s Budget Group (WBG) which has been working on this topic for a long time now, defines GRB as the following: “A gender-responsive budget is a budget that works for everyone – women men and, girls and boys – by ensuring gender-equitable distribution of resources and by contributing to equal opportunities for all. Gender-responsive budgeting is essential both for gender justice and for fiscal justice. It involves analyzing government budgets for their effect on different genders and the norms and roles associated with them, and the relationship between genders. It also involves actually transforming these budgets to ensure that gender equality commitments are realised.”


Why Is Gender-Responsive Budgeting Needed?

Well because women, men, girls and boys have different needs, circumstances, barriers, risks and level of opportunities. We do know that women still remain under-represented in most aspects of public life, especially in decision-making positions. With this being said, it is very likely that their needs are not being taken into account during budgetary processes, as there are few women involved in public consultations and drafting of the budget. 

These are exactly a few of the differences which gender responsive bugeting would take into account, the gaps that it would try to close, by consulting and including women in policymaking, especially in the drafting of country budgets, to make sure that their needs will be met during the implementation and distribution of the budget. Surely, GRB also makes sure men’s needs will be met too. For example, there are countries where fathers do not fully enjoy parental leave, because of discriminatory legislation. Through GRB, this gap could be identified and resolved, by making sure that the right amount of funds is allocated for both women and men to equally take part in the process of raising their children — through maternity, paternity and parental leaves.

Sounds great right? GRB is key to a just and equal future for women and men, boys and girls.

For more information on the topic, I suggest you dig a little bit deeper into the publications of The Women’s Budget Group, an independent and not-for-profit membership network consisting of women’s voluntary organisations, academics and policy experts whose aims are to promote a gender equal economy.


Photo: FotoDuets/Shutterstock


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