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.
The Project Proposal
According to the latest census Pakistan has an estimated population of 125 million, 51% of which are women. One of the main reasons why Pakistan has not been able to achieve economic growth has been the inadequate investment of resources in its people, in particular, women.
A number of factors contribute to the disadvantaged position of women in Pakistan. They have low levels of skill and literacy and lack of organizational structures, through which resources could be mobilized for their own benefit. A gender segregated school system limits their access to formal education, as boys' schools are accorded priority. While poor health conditions and a high fertility rate constrain their development, lack of mobility further aggravates the situation.
The traditional concept in Pakistan is that women belong to the home and should remain within its "four walls". Any attempt by women to step out of the home in search of employment or education is seen to be deviating from traditional norms and is socially unacceptable. Many families live on subsistence level because of the male members' refusal to allow the women to seek employment opportunities outside the home. This situation is more characteristic of rural areas. In urban areas, while these social undertones exist, they are less pronounced due to economic needs, exposure, education and the demands of urbanization. It is socially more acceptable for women in these areas to venture outside their homes. Nevertheless, while being somewhat acceptable, the deep-rooted perceptions of society are reflected in the discrimination and harassment meted out to women who attempt to step out in public. This results in women's access to education, employment, training opportunities and available social services (however inadequate), being restrictive. This saga of women exclusion and discrimination is locked in cause and effect relationship of inadequate resource availability for women. This has contributed to causing uneven poverty among women.
Poverty is measured, whether in terms of income, rights (e.g., the right to political participation) opportunities (eg., education) or access to social services (e.g. health) , the fact remains that it has a woman’s face in Pakistan and no poverty reduction strategy can be meaningful unless her needs are effectively addressed and they can gain their entitlements without hindrance. To expect that policy instruments such as a budget will have the same impact on women and men wrongly assumes that they experience poverty in a similar way, varying only in intensity. The fact is that due to their different socially determined roles, responsibilities, capacities and opportunities the government policies, programs and projects do not benefit them equally. How government spends and raises money affect women and men differently as well. The budget is not a gender neutral instrument. Gender budgeting has to be brought from the margins to the center of the development paradigm. It has to be mainstreamed as well into democratic governance and decentralization processes, both of which play a crucial role in the attainment of the millennium development goals. This however, is a daunting task in a traditional and resource poor countries like Pakistan.
There is a whole array of traditional reasons for creating inhospitable conditions for progress and development of women on even keel. The state itself has not done enough to lift women from the mire of traditional regression. Although there are recent attempts of policy interventions to improve the plight of women, however, these are sporadic attempts that are concentrated at the federal level. One of the most important interventions to improve the women lot is by providing adequate budgetary allocations. In other words there is a greater need of introduction of gender sensitive budgeting in the national budget making process.
For the purpose of this project budget making may be considered at the following two levels.
Budget making as a technical process
Budget making as a political process
Budget making as a technical process involves technical or professional processes at Finance Division (Federal level), Finance Department (Provincial level), Finance and Planning Department (District level) and Finance office (Tehsil level), for budget articulation at their respective levels.
Budget making as a political process involves process of political participation from national parliamentarians, provincial parliamentarians, district councilors and Nazims, teshil councilors and Nazims and Union councilors for budget articulation at their respective levels.
Traditionally budget is considered to be a technical person’s job. The Finance Division and Finance Departments make budgets which are then presented to the respective level of legislature to approve it. Any expenditure that is not voted is not considered a valid expense. Usually the approval of budget by the national, provincial and district assemblies is a ritual which is performed in a routine fashion. Although opposition benches try to question the proposed budgetary allocation the budget is normally passed without undergoing effective political scrutiny. Although there is permanent quota of women in elected councils from national assembly to union councils yet but to extent these women question the budget from gender perspective is a moot point.
Therefore neither the technical experts nor the political representatives debate and analyze budget with a gender lens. This project therefore aims to study the technical and political process of budget making by comparing the various efforts being made by different actors so that relevant policy interventions may be identified in order to institutionalize gender budgeting.
The following interventions are planned under the project:
Conducting an evaluation study of the ongoing efforts of gender budgeting in Pakistan to analyze the course followed by donors, government and civil society/ NGOs on gender budgeting and suggest policy options in the context of governance paradigm. The evaluation study will focus on assessing the possible outcome of gender budgeting programs.
Comparing gender budgeting in Pakistan with other countries and draw possible lessons for implementation in the local context.
Study the portfolio of projects on gender budgeting and assess whether all projects and policies on gender budgeting have common focus?
Analysis of the basis of budgetary process of Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and considerations taken in articulating budget document.
Analysis of the budget approval process – structured interviews from national, provincial and local elected public representatives, especially women parliamentarians, and gather primary data.
Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) was started in 1984 by the “femocrats” in Australia who argued that government expenditures in programs and projects have a differential impact on women and men. In the 1990’s, South African women introduced the Women’s Budget Initiative (WBI), a collaborative effort of women Members of Parliament whose numbers shot up to an unprecedented 30% of the National Assembly in 1991 and non-governmental organizations. Interest in GRB was renewed after the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women when governments committed themselves to the Platform for Action’s (PFA) in twelve critical areas of concern. The allocation of public funds by governments to meet the PFA’s strategic objectives emerged as one of the major advocacies of women’s groups all over the world. However, this change came about in a phased manner. At present over 60 countries are working on GRB iitiatives.
The first generation of gender-responsive budgeting targetted th following :
1) cocentrate on the expenditure side of the budget;
2) Mainly supported/ initiated by civil society organizations, academics, parliamentarians, or Ministries of Finance
3) GRB remained at the priphery rather than at the core of the development paradigm.
The second generation of gender responsive budgeting shifted sway to the following:
1) Focus on both the revenue and expenditure aspects of the budget;
2) Connect GRB with the broader issue of government accountability and responsibiity for resources utilization; and
3) Shift the focus to economic decision-making as part of democratic governance where the citizens have the right to participate in the formulation of policies related to the generation and utilization of public finance to meet their basic needs.
Women’s Budget initiatives exist in a number of countries both in the North and the South and their aims are to examine existing budgets for their differential effects on women and men, especially where budgets are claimed to be .gender-neutral. Efforts to engender national budgets can be divided into those that are initiated outside government and those initiated inside government. South Africa, for example, has both levels of activity.
GB, however, is a gigantic task given the poor resource picture of Pakistan, traditional resource use in budgeting, lack of gender sensitized policies and lack of relevant research and expertise on gender budgeting.
Objective and goal of the project
The critical area of gender sensitive budgeting is usually ignored in the overall national effort to mainstream gender in Pakistan. The overall objective of this project proposal is to identify issues and problems lying at the interface of gender and fiscal management in Pakistan. This project focuses analysing the ongoing GB efforts and to suggest policy interventions. The specific objectives of the project are as follows:
Analysis of existing basis of budget making process of allocation of resources.
Identify capacity gaps, issues and problems in establishing gender budgeting programs and policies of donors and government.
Suggest policy measures to best implement the gender programs in Pakistan.
Attempt to suggest institutional mechanisms and procedures for systematic gender budgeting based on the experience from other countries.
The overarching objective of the project is to integrate gender budgeting issues into relevant national, regional and OSI institutions and processes, such as SAARC women and other organization in the OSI network.
The following methods will be used:
(1) Review of the literature on budgeting, process of budget making and the relevant budgetary legal framework.
(2) Structured as well as non-structured interviews with public representatives to gather primary data.
(3) An international comparative study of key features of gender budgeting between Pakistan and other countries with experience of gender budgeting.
Scope of the project and sustainability
The project will have a double focus: on one hand it will compare and evaluate the gender budgeting programs focused on identifying the problems and issues in the national context of gender mainstreaming and allocable resources. On the other hand it will attempt to focus on the different approaches and meanings of gender in different cultural settings, usually, but not necessarily typified by four provinces of Pakistan where notion of gender mainstreaming is not similar and universalistic as it is generally believed. While keeping the diversity of approach towards gender the experience of international best practices will be utilized. The Federal Finance Ministry, the Provincial Finance Departments, the district finance departments and the Women Development departments at the federal and provincial levels will be the main government departments whose polices would need a shift in order to allow the Gender reform budgeting become a permanent policy instrument. The sustainability of the project lies in its practicable recommendations formulated after the completion of evaluation study.
Advocacy/Local partners in this initiative
NGOs working on gender issues-SPDC etc
Donors- World Bank, UNDP, ADB and Dfid etc.
Think tanks working on gender reforms-SDPI etc.
Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad.
Federal and Provincial ministries and relevant departments of women and social welfare.
Pakistan Development Forum
Federal and Provincial finance, economics and development ministries.
Partners in OSI and international Network
This initiative expects to build gainful synergies with the partner organization of Soros foundation network. This list of the identified organizations is as follows:
Organizations in International gender policy network (IGPN)
Foundation for the women of Hungary (MONA), Budapest
Center for Partnership and Equality, Romania. (CPE)
Institute for social and gender policy, Russia
Roma women initiative (RWI)
OSI Network Program (NWP
In addition the project also expects to build linkages to connect OSI to other policy and academic networks which are closely concerned with the gender budgeting such as GEM-IWG (the international working group on gender, macroeconomics and international economics), Utah university, USA.
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