The case for gender responsive budgeting


The case for gender responsive budgeting

As each and every day takes us closer to the 2030 goal of achieving the sustainable development goals, we need policies that can close the inequality gap to be backed up by allocating adequate resources in the budget towards actualising them. Gender-responsive budgeting is part of the way forward.

International Women’s Day serves as a powerful reminder of the progress women have achieved in their struggles for equality, justice, and fairness – and the journey that still lies ahead. A key measure of this progress is the commitment of governments and policymakers to ensure that mechanisms are in place to tailor decisions to make progress toward achieving gender equality, backed up with practicable actions. One of these mechanisms is gender responsive budgeting.

What is gender responsive budgeting?

Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) is a strategy that applies the principles of public financial management to promote equality, particularly with a focus on public services, infrastructure, and social protection. It aims to shape fiscal policy by recognising the disadvantaged gender in the budgetary process and introducing measures to correct inequalities. GRB ensures that each phase of the budget cycle, from forecasting to outcome monitoring, is deliberately gender responsive. If carried out effectively, GRB can help achieve gender equality and drive economic prosperity.

As UN Women defines it, GRB ensures that public resources are allocated and policies are implemented effectively to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. GRB initiatives do not only identify gender-based disadvantage in specific policies but can also help address persistent inequalities between women and men by considering gender issues in economic policy and public spending.

If implemented effectively, GRB ensures the prioritisation of women’s rights throughout the entire budgeting cycle as GRB aims to influence not only the budgeting process but also the policies that underpin it. GRB initiatives seek to raise awareness of the effects that the allocation of public funds has on women and men and to hold governments accountable for their commitments to gender equality.

Why democracies need gender responsive budgeting

We risk the decline in and mistrust of democracy being entrenched if governments cannot show how democracy delivers for its citizens. Democracies are associated with higher levels of gender equality than non-democratic systems and hybrid regimes. However, both new and established democracies are not finding it easy to guarantee development and economic equality. 

Through GRB, governments, institutions, and organisations can better understand and address the differing impacts of revenue and spending patterns on women and men, fostering greater accountability and transparency. A gender-responsive approach to budgeting allows structural inequality to be identified and addressed through policy and legal frameworks. It also helps to ensure that a country’s resource and revenue management processes are adequately supporting women’s wellbeing, which is a key economic driver. 

GRB is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the gender equality gap but it is essential for analysing the needs of all citizens and attaining a fair and just distribution of resources. It is designed to address gaps such as those created through unpaid care and domestic work for women aged 15 and over, which is valued at approximately $10.8 trillion annually.

Governments and institutions committed to closing the gap in gender equality and prioritising women's agendas must reflect this commitment in their spending plans. Do they back up their words with actions and financial support? 

GRB provides a well-established policy approach to support the increased alignment of public resources with gender equality objectives. Through analytical tools, GRB identifies gender gaps, plans gender-responsive interventions, aligns budgets with these policy and programmatic interventions, and assesses impacts.

Examples of success in gender responsive budgeting

As of 2020, all the G20 countries have taken steps towards gender-focused fiscal policies, although more progress has been made in establishing gender budgeting frameworks and budget preparation tools than with budget execution, monitoring, and auditing. In 2023, UN Women reported that ‘’over 100 countries have initiated efforts on gender-responsive budgeting to address gender equality and the historical underinvestment in essential services for women and girls.’’

For instance: 

  • In 2013, Morocco’s finance ministry and UN Women launched the Centre of Excellence for Gender Responsive Budgeting, a milestone achievement that provided lawmakers in Morocco with information on how public policies are working toward gender equality on a local and national level. 
  • Austria ensured gender responsive budgeting is part of its constitution and budget proposals assessed through the lens of gender equality. This in turn led to the embedding of gender equality in educational curricula, prioritising the prevention of violence against women through the creation of helplines and shelters, promoting women in leadership, and boosting the participation of women in politics. 
  • Colombia fully integrated gender equality in their National Development Plan, which included a gender budget tracker, mandated by law, to track how the budget is allocated and spent.
WFD’s support for gender responsive budgeting

In democratic systems, local and national parliaments have an important role in budget setting, approval, implementation, and oversight. Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) provides technical assistance to parliaments in carrying out this role, including through tailored support to carry out GRB.

The 2023 UK Government white paper on international development indicated a clear link between inclusive democracy and advancing women's rights. As each and every day takes us closer to the 2030 goal of achieving the sustainable development goals, we need policies that can close the inequality gap to be backed up by allocating adequate resources in the budget towards actualising them. Gender-responsive budgeting is part of the way forward. As with so many policies and rights that women have fought for, the result will be lasting benefits not only for women but for society in general.

Happy International Women’s Day!