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What is the issue with gender budgeting?

District officers in Uganda discuss steps toward better gender responsive budgeting. Photo: J. F. Okiror (IITA)
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Mar 6, 2017


John Francis Okiror (IITA)


Perspectives from local government practitioners on creating budgets to eliminate disparity and promote gender equality.

“Gender equity and budgeting is a requirement for all sectors and local governments,” said Joel Atim, senior inspector with the Ministry of Local Government, while presenting at the gender budgeting feedback workshop in Nwoya district of Uganda on 23 February 2017. He explained that gender budgeting focuses not only on eliminating gender disparities in all sectors of government and ending all forms of discrimination against women but also promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in the development process.

To highlight the importance of gender relations and equality in sectors such as agriculture, natural resources, education and health, gender and development practitioners have argued that expecting a country to develop with half of its population unable to fully participate in the process is like asking someone to work with one arm and leg tied behind his/her back.

Gender budgeting has become a recognized approach to use fiscal policy and administration to address gender inequality and promote women’s advancement. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) survey of gender budgeting efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda and Rwanda have achieved notable success in their efforts to integrate gender-oriented goals into budget policies, programs and processes. This success is attributed not only to leadership by the Ministry of Finance but also non-governmental organizations and parliament that play an essential role in gender budgeting advocacy.

Focus on Uganda

Uganda has undertaken a number of initiatives to promote gender equality. The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) provides a framework that promotes equal consideration of women and men in government programs, the National Gender Policy (1997, revised in 2007) provides for mainstreaming gender in the development process, and gender budgeting guidelines from the Ministry of Local Government facilitate planning and budgeting processes at the local government level. However, the challenge remains to transform policy objectives into practice.

Gender Budgeting Feedback workshops were conducted in February 2017 in Luweero, Rakai and Nwoya districts in Uganda to give feedback and validate findings of the gender budget analysis conducted by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) through its Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project. The study analyzed four district and twelve sub-county budgets for four financial years (2012/13 to 2015/16), with specific reference to the agriculture and natural resource sectors.

While presenting the research findings, Mariola Acosta, a research fellow at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), told district and sub-county officials in Nwoya that gender activities are allocated an average actual budget of 0.09 percent and 0.43 percent of the total annual budget for the district and sub-county respectively. In comparison to other districts in the study, Nwoya has consistently higher actual budgets than estimated budgets, with an average actual budget at 0.06 percent and the average estimate budget for gender at 0.013 percent. “Nwoya findings are contrary to all the districts. We would like to know why Nwoya received more budget allocation than estimated between 2012 and 2015,” Acosta said.

“It is fine to budget less and spend more but the issue is execution,” said Francis Opira, district planner. “In the course of the year when we receive more money [from other sources including development partners] we also give more money to gender issues.” He explained that Nwoya Local Government is addressing gender issues indirectly, citing the examples of a borehole that benefits women and children who fetch water, and a road that benefits men who take produce to the markets.

Feedback workshops have been conducted with members of the Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change and Food Security, national level climate change stakeholders, and ten local governments, including the four target districts where the CCAFS-PACCA initiative is operating.

Overall, the study indicated that local governments allocated low budgets to gender-specific activities; districts allocated an average of 0.09 percent while sub-counties allocated 0.43 percent of their agriculture and natural resource budgets to gender-specific activities. The gender-specific activity allocations fluctuated considerably from one financial year to another, and there were consistent and striking differences between gender budget estimates and actual allocations.

Local government officials explained that budget cuts, demand driven budgets, limited resources, conditional grants, the cross-cutting nature of gender-related activities, and a lack of adequate knowledge on gender issues are responsible for the variable and low estimated and actual budgets at the district and sub-counties.

Opportunities for improvement

Despite the gender budgeting gaps, there are great opportunities to improve. The central government has provided guidelines for gender mainstreaming and budgeting such as the Local Government Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines, Local Government Act (1997), Equal Opportunities Commission Act (2007), and the National Gender Policy (2007). Discussions by local governments revealed that there are actions they could take on immediately to address gender budgeting and allocation gaps. These include lobbying for funds, allocating part of local revenue to the gender budget, using a bottom-up approach in planning, and awareness creation and gender mainstreaming in all sectors at district and sub-county levels.

Moving forward, PACCA plans to build on the information shared in these feedback workshops and continue supporting district officers in Uganda to transition towards more responsible gender budgeting in climate change policy formulation, which would not only involve an increase in budget allocated to gender issues but also a diversification of the gender activities planned by the districts.

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