Under its recently launched Irtiqa initiative, NAMA Women Advancement (NAMA) organised a high-profile panel at Women’s Pavilion in Expo 2020 Dubai recently addressing the important question of why gender responsive budgeting (GRB) is crucial to ensure women’s equal access to economic and financial resources.
Titled ‘Is Gender Budgeting the Solution to Inclusion’, the discussion aimed to introduce leaders and decision makers in both public and private sectors in the UAE and the wider region to gender responsive budgeting, focusing on the importance of viewing organisational budgets through a gender lens in order to achieve the collective objectives of growth, employment and social cohesion. The discussion also spotlighted the experiences of nations which have been successfully implementing gender responsive budgeting over the years.
Eminent members on the panel included Carolina Renteria Rodrigez, International Monetary Fund, Division Chief, PFM Europe; Maja Bosnic, international GRB expert, NIRAS International Consulting; Hajar Ben Ameur, Head of Budget Performance and GRB, Morocco Ministry of Economy and Finance; Romawaty Sinaga, Public Sector Specialist, World Bank Indonesia; and Dr Rosanna Duncan, Chief Diversity Officer, Palladium. The discussion’s moderator was Ermira Lubani, GRB Programme Specialist, UN Women Europe Central Asia.
Reem BinKaram: GRB can make meaningful improvements to gender equality outcomes
In her welcome address, Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, noted that the UAE had institutionalised gender budgeting in 2015 by establishing the Gender Balance Council.
She said: “The Council’s objectives to reduce the gender gap across all government sectors has led to the UAE becoming the benchmark for gender balance legislation in the region. The nation’s experience in gender-informed resource allocation has demonstrated that with this powerful tool the benefits of development can reach women equally as their male counterparts.”
BinKaram added: “Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, and wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, believes that inclusive and equitable economic growth can only be possible with women’s full economic empowerment. We are confident that this panel will build on her ideals to take us forward in the journey to make this ambitious and inclusive vision, a reality,” she concluded.
GRB connects the dots
Introducing the topic, Lubani, noted: “Today there are more than 100 countries worldwide which are implementing different GRB initiatives. This implies proper legal and policy framework in both gender equality and in budgetary processes. It is an approach which instils gender equality objectives into policy and budgetary processes by checking if revenues and expenditure reinforce, reduce, or promote gender equality. GRB serves to connect the dots by linking government policy and budget together, which are often considered to be two separate islands. It therefore increases social accountability and transparency, and ensures that no one is left behind”.
Empowering women is good economics
Outlining the importance of gender responsive budgeting in times of crisis, Carolina Renteria Rodrigez, IMF Division Chief, PFM Europe; said: “The IMF sees women’s empowerment as critical to economic progress. With the right policies to ensure women’s participation in the economy, a country’s GDP would increase substantially. GRB has the potential to not only support gender equality objectives but also drive more inclusive growth that is equitable and sustainable. The importance of advancing women’s empowerment is a longstanding issue that has gained even stronger momentum during the Covid-19 crisis. It is of utmost importance that government policies for economic recovery pay greater attention to women in order to ensure sustainable results. Recent IMF studies show that in countries with low female labor market participation, closing the gender gap could raise the GDP by an average of 35 percent. The IMF approach to GRB encourages the holistic integration of gender perspectives across each phase of the budget cycle and gender responsive fiscal policies. IMF believes that empowering women economically is truly good economics and the need of the hour.”
A GRB model from Ukraine
Maja Bosnic, GRB expert, NIRAS International Consulting, said: “We have for long been hearing that GRB is good budgeting. However, I would say it is better budgeting. It should be the only way to budget. I will share an experience from Ukraine as an example. I was leading the GRB project launched in 2013 in collaboration with the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance and supported by the Swedish government for seven years. The question was where the funds are being deployed and who is really benefitting to close the gender and social gaps.”
“Ukraine took it further to analyse the impact of budget allocations on women and men in different socio-economic groups. To date, Ukraine has analysed over 300 budget programmes in all the sectors. We discovered gender gaps in all of them. This was because gender equality had not been considered while designing those programmes. We analysed the cause and consequences of this. I am happy to say, that most of the programmes have been improved though there is still a lot left to be done. However, the programme has resulted to increased women participation in the economy and other spheres in Ukraine. While the programme has ended, GRB continues to be utilized in Ukraine, and we are making progress,” she added.
Morocco showcases its success
Hajar Ben Ameur, Head of Budget Performance and GRB, Morocco Ministry of Economy and Finance outlined the long history of GRB in Morocco beginning from the early 2000s when the country began to consider the reforms needed to promote women’s empowerment. Around the same period, Morocco introduced a project to modernise its budgetary systems to improve the performance of public service. The two came together to create a successful GRB model for Morocco. She added: “Over the years we have learnt how to obtain better results on the ground. When it comes to national education, a large percentage of girls drop out of school when they reach primary level, especially in rural areas, due to financial constraints. We created social support networks and mechanisms, including the provision of direct financial aid to families, to make it possible for girls to complete their education. This has led to several positive indicators such as reducing school dropouts among girls by four points. On the last evaluation, the results of the programme indicated a great improvement in girls’ education in the primary section. This is among the one of the many successes of our GRB programme. Today, we work with all the ministries, though there is still resistance at some levels and lack of awareness of how gender relates to their day to day work. “If you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” she added. Undoubtedly, GRB is relevant to all ministries and it is an important driver for sustainable development.”
Indonesia’s progress in implementing GRB
Speaking about Indonesia’s experience, Romawaty Sinaga, Public Sector Specialist, World Bank Indonesia; said: “Indonesia has been mainstreaming gender in its national budget processes using several public financial management tools to understand the impact of budget policies on different groups of beneficiaries. In 2019, Indonesia undertook a GRB assessment in cooperation with the World Bank to track progress and further strengthen gender mainstreaming in budgetary processes.”
“She concluded: “The assessment found that Indonesia has developed a solid regulatory and institutional framework for GRB. One of the key lessons learned from this programme is that investing in capacity building of government officials is crucial to ensure the systematic integration of gender considerations in planning and budgetary process. GRB should not be an afterthought, it should become a result-oriented process and the only mindset of the public service, given that they are responsible to deliver the development objectives”.
And while the GRB programme has undoubtedly led to an increase in the human development index, gender gaps continue to persist in many areas. So in terms of next steps, we are looking to introduce a pilot GRB programme in select sectors to further improve performance-based budgeting and link expenditure with intended results.
Lessons for private organisations in embedding equity, diversity and inclusion
Speaking about how organisations can implement strategies that prioritize equity, diversity and inclusion, Dr Rosanna Duncan, Chief Diversity Officer, Palladium, noted that the equity, diversity and inclusion functions are usually compartmentalised into a HR activity, when in fact, they should be championed and pursued as part of broader organizational goals. Leaders should be held to account and create a culture where embedding equity, diversity and inclusion is ‘everybody’s responsibility”, she said. For organizations that want to make real change, it is important to consider what equity, diversity and inclusion means not just for their workforce, but the communities they work with and serve and their supply chains. She added: “The private and public sector have an opportunity, through their spending power, to increase diversity in their supply chains by engaging with women-led businesses and / or businesses led by groups currently under-represented in their supply chains.”. By setting standards, requirements and expectations for suppliers on equity, diversity and inclusion organisations have an opportunity to build a supplier ecosystem that is more aligned to principles of equity and inclusion as well as one which is more diverse.
Source: National Network Communications – NNC