International Policy Fellowship 2006-07
International Policy Fellow
Time table and Work Plan
Gender budgeting in Pakistan – issues and policy interventions
Gender Budgeting is a good monitoring tool to determine the extent to which national budgets are designed to address the gender mainstreaming issue. It is usually believed that budgets are gender-neutral policy instruments. However, the ’gender-blind’ manner ignores the different, socially determined roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of women and men, whereby women tend to be disadvantaged, leaving them with less economic, social and political power compared to men. It is will not be incorrect to suggest that by making gender blind budgets the state unconsciously contributes to the gender inequality. In order to understand as how the usual and orthodox budgetary process exacerbates gender inequality the interrelationships between budgets, growth, gender inequality and poverty need to be highlighted.
Gender budgeting is not only of particular significance per se for gaining gender equality but it has a deeper significance for overall poverty reduction and meeting the specific numerical and time-bound Millennium Development Goals (MDG) particularly halving poverty by 2015. This can only be achieved if governments allocate adequate resources to ensure that women, who constitute more than fifty percent of population in Pakistan, have equal access to genuine entitlements that offer them equal opportunities to join in the mainstream and contribute to overall growth and development of a country.
The overall development objective of the gender reforms in Pakistan is to make women economically, socially and politically empowered through transforming gender relations to effectively create a society that fulfills its domestic and international obligations of a developmental state.
The empowerment of a woman is not a linear and straight forward process. It is a policy monolithic created by a series of interconnected processes. It begins with the process of increasing awareness of her equitable potential, capacities and rights in an enabling environment. This environment is engendered by the mutual efforts of different stakeholders in which the commitment of government is the most important because traditionally the governments are considered as responsible for making investments in social sectors which have ends other than commercial interests as pursued by the private sector. All the policy formulation and implementation takes place within the government, albeit having inputs from various quarters such as civil society, pressure groups, media and advocacy campaigns. However, ultimate decision maker is the government or the state.
The role and commitment of state is also important in a reform effort, such as gender budgeting initiative, since reforms may seem maverick contested, complicated and political in nature. This posits brining a change in the political, legal, administrative, economic and social structure of a state which may be acceptable to some and may not be acceptable to others. Here lies the commitment of the state that if it believes in reforms, such as making a basis for the gender budgeting, then it should provide them with the sap and strength by its commitment.
The government in Pakistan is convinced that gender mainstreaming is necessary in order to make women equal partners and share holders in development. Various NGOs, civil society organizations and donors are promoting gender mainstreaming to help the government in this bid. However, these efforts can not reach fruition if the Government, as the major service delivery provider in the country, does not initiate focused interventions and investments towards achieving gender related development.
As a first step of any government’s commitment to improve women lot adequate resource allocation occupies a pivotal position. The Government of Pakistan at present is following gender blind budgeting paradigm in which it is assumed that the budgetary allocations will automatically cater to the women needs. The poor development indicators on women literacy, health coverage and employment opportunities suggest that gender blind budgeting does not automatically translate into expending money on women development.
This project therefore suggests that there is a need for shifting priorities in favor of gender sensitive budgeting at the Federal, Provincial and local level. In order to achieve this the problems and issues related to gender budgeting need to be identified and discussed to suggest possible solutions as how to introduce gender budgeting in Pakistan.
It is expected that the outcome and recommendation of this project would result in enlarging choices for the Government, NGOs, civil society, donors and women by transforming gender relations through formalizing women rights into financial policy instruments.