One way to analyze government budgets is to assess how they address the needs of a particular group of people, such as women, children, or people with disabilities. Civil society organizations (CSOs) that work on issues related to women and girls generally are not focused solely on ensuring that the needs and interests of women are met but also on promoting gender equityi.e., a state in which a person’s gender does not determine access to society’s resources and opportunities.
Policies pursued through government budgets directly affect income, education, and health care, among others, and so can alleviate or exacerbate gaps between the living standards of women and girls and men and boysand between different groups of women and girls and men and boys. By looking at how the budget meets the needs of all of these different groups, GRB can inform decisions about reallocating resources to achieve gender equity.
However, equity does not mean that public budgets should necessarily provide equal resources to women and men. In fact, this could result in less equity. For example, a country that has only recently committed to providing equal education opportunities to girls and boys might need to provide additional funding to encourage education of girls, whose schooling previously had been restricted compared to that of boys. In this case, equal funding would be neither equitable nor effective in reaching the government’s goal.
Therefore, a GRB analysis would assess not whether the distribution of resources is equal, but whether each group’s needs and interests are being addressed equitably. In addition to looking at the expenditure side of the government budget, GRB analysis can also assess whether a budget’s revenue burdens in forms such as taxes and user fees are likely to have a differential impact on different groups of women and men.
All governments have scarce resources, and thus need to decide between competing demands. GRB analysis can provide valuable information for developing budgets that address the needs and interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, and advance gender equity. However, as with other types of budget analysis, ensuring these outcomes almost always requires effective advocacy. This advocacy can take the form of using the evidence generated by GRB analysis to provide meaningful input into budget debates, propose policy alternatives, inform the public and build a constituency for gender equity, and to challenge discrimination, and hold the government accountable for progress on realizing equity.
A good example of effectively combining gender budget analysis with advocacy come from Mexico, where IBP partner organization Fundar has analyzed government health budgets with an eye to how they address the reproductive health needs of women, especially poor women in rural areas. By working with coalition partners, including allies in the Mexican gender budget initiative, Fundar effectively reached out to government departments, legislative committees, the media, and civil society. Their evidence-based advocacy resulted in more funding for reproductive health services and, more importantly, a process for the legislature, the executive, and civil society to debate women’s health issues. This has helped ensure that funding is sustained and that women in the poorest Mexican states benefit from it.
Gender budget analysis combined with effective advocacy can:
- Promote greater gender equity
- Strengthen government commitment to women (e.g., more funding for programs and services for women)
- Increase budget transparency and accountability
- Identify where government budgets conflict with gender-related policy goals
- Improve opportunities and outcomes for women
Useful Guides and Publications
- Engendering Budgets: A Practitioner’s Guide to Understanding and Implementing Gender-Responsive Budgets
by Debbie Budlender and Guy Hewitt.
This guide from the Commonwealth Secretariat is not intended as a blueprint for implementing gender-responsive budgeting. Instead, it was developed to present basic information about gender budgets so that those interested in undertaking gender budget work can understand some of the fundamentals and determine how best these could be adapted to their local context.
- Gender Budgets Make Sense: Understanding Gender Responsive Budgets
by Debbie Budlender et al.
This book from the Commonwealth Secretariat provides a foundation for understanding gender-responsive budget initiatives based on examination of such initiatives in several countries. It looks at such issues as integrating gender into public budgets as part of economic reform and promoting gender equality through public expenditure and provides practical analytical tools for undertaking applied gender budget work.
- Gender Budgets Make More Sense: Country Studies and Good Practice
edited by Debbie Budlender and Guy Hewitt.
This book follows up on Gender Budgets Make Sense by providing several case studies of civil society-driven and government-driven gender-responsive budget initiatives in Commonwealth countries.
- Gender Budgeting: Practical Implementation Handbook
by Sheila Quinn.
The aim of this publication is to serve as a guide to the practice of gender budgeting. It assumes an understanding of gender, of the objectives of a gender equality strategy, of the ways in which gender inequality is manifest, of the need for structural change in order to tackle unintentional gender bias, of the basics of gender mainstreaming as a strategy to address gender equality.
- Gender Responsive Budgeting and Reproductive Rights: A Resource Pack
This resource pack (available in Spanish, English, and French) provides relevant knowledge to facilitate mainstreaming gender-responsive approaches into reproductive health programs, and the inclusion of specific aspects of gender inequality and disadvantage into national policy frameworks.
- Gendered Budget Work in the Americas: Selected Country Experiences
by Natasha Borges Sukiyama.
This report looks at gender budgeting in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, and Peru and draws some lessons from the experiences in these countries on opportunities and challenges related to gender budget work and how such work supports democratization and participation. It also provides some practical tips for engaging in gender budget analysis and advocacy.
Learn More about Gender Budget Analysis
- Visit the Gender Responsive Budgeting website hosted by UNIFEM. This comprehensive website provides background information on gender budgeting and on gender budget initiatives around the world, as well as practical resources, including a large number of publications, for those seeking to engage in gender budget analysis and advocacy.
- Visit the University of South Australia’s page on Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Asia-Pacific Region to read about the outcomes of a two-year research project funded funded by AusAID. This website investigated the practices and potential of gender-responsive budgeting in 31 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and features publications, training materials, and country profiles.