Gender-Responsive Budgeting (GRB) is a form of budgeting that contributes to the advancement of gender equality and the fulfillment of women’s rights. It entails identifying and reflecting needed interventions to address gender gaps in sector and local government policies, plans and budgets. GRB also aims to analyze the gender-differentiated impact of revenue-raising policies and the allocation of domestic resources and Official Development Assistance.
GRB initiatives seek to create enabling policy frameworks, build capacity and strengthen monitoring mechanisms to support accountability to women. As such, it is a process that entails incorporating a gender perspective at various stages—planning/ policy/ programmes formulation, assessment of needs of target groups, allocation of resources, implementation, impact assessment and if required, reprioritization of resources.
Given that the women represent 48 percent of the total population in the country and that owning to various factors, they face disparities in access to and control over services and resources, the government, in an important initiative has mandated setting up of Gender Budgeting Cells (GBCs) in all Ministries/Departments.
The move also stems from the recognition that the bulk of public expenditure and policy concerns are in so called “gender neutral” sectors– power, defence, petroleum, transport, etc, whereas, in actual terms, there is no sector which can be considered to be completely “gender neutral”.
What is important about gender budgeting in the realization that it is not an accounting exercise. Gender Responsive Budget and Gender mainstreaming are outcomes of Gender Budgeting. Given this, there was an allocation of Rs. 28,737 cr. for benefit of women estimated from 24 demand for grants in 18 Ministries and Departments. The process has been extended to all levels of governance—Centre, State, District, local governance and also to Public Sector units and Autonomous Bodies. Gender Auditing has also been made mandatory.
While it is too early to comment on the performance of the initiative, it is indeed a welcome step and if implemented well, it can address some of the important issues pertaining to women specifically with regard to access to resources. However, for that to happen, it is important to ensure that there are adequate structures and mechanisms to ensure that there is space for participation of women in budgetary exercise, be it from SHGs or other platforms. Without this, plans would continue to be made in isolation from the reality. For how long can we afford it?
How can gender budgeting be made effective?