Gender Responsive Budgeting

Gender budgeting (GB) is a practice that accounts budgetary measures to support gender commitments. It is not just an accounting exercise but an ongoing process of keeping a gender perspective in policy/ programme formulation, its implementation and review. GB entails dissection of the Government budgets to establish its gender differential impacts and to ensure that gender commitments are translated in to budgetary commitments.

Since 2005-06, the Expenditure Division of the Ministry of Finance has been issuing a note on Gender Budgeting as a part of the Budget Circular every year. This GB Statement comprises two parts- Part A and Part B.

Part A reflects Women Specific Schemes, i.e., those which have 100% allocation for women.

Part B reflects Pro Women Schemes, i.e., those where at least 30% of the allocation is for women.

  • For Gender Budgets to be able to address crucial gender gaps, budgetary allocations should be based on grassroots-based planning.
  • To improve the effectiveness of GRB, a need-based approach must be taken.
  • There is an immediate need to conduct an assessment of gender-specific parameters and set goals accordingly. For example, it is important to understand time-bound goals for parameters such as female school enrolment, gender-based violence, health, labour force participation.
  • The authority should be created for gender auditing, to conduct an annual impact assessment of budgetary allocations for all schemes, thus bringing accountability to the process.
  • There is also a critical need for capacity building across government, corporates, public sector undertakings, NGOs and all involved agencies.
  • While steps have been taken to mainstream the gender budgeting process at central and state government level, there is a definite need to deepen this process.
  • A national-level reporting platform should be created under the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, which will collect the disaggregated data by sex for understanding the impact and outcome of the gender budgeting initiative.
  • The Central Statistics Office should also be engaged for better data collection and analysis techniques.
  • Shared responsibility between the central and state governments would accelerate this process.
  • There needs to be shift from mere “reporting” of gender allocations to “purposive planning” with wider participation of women.
  • The adoption of the GB should be accompanied by multifaceted and interrelated improvements to budgets in general and the gender sensitivity of budgets.
  • There needs to be shift from mere “reporting” of gender allocations to “purposive planning” with wider participation of women.
  • The need of the hour is women-led development to be the government’s mantra from being about women development; focussing on schemes on nutrition, anganwadi and women employment.
  • Over the last 16 years, India’s Gender Budget has increased from Rs 24,241 crore ($5.5 billion) in 2005-06 to Rs 1,43,462 crore ($19 billion) in 2020-21, a six-fold increase in absolute terms.
    • However, in the last 13 years, the allocations as a proportion to the total budget have stayed constant between 4.3 per cent and 5.9 per cent.
    • The allocation was less than 5 per cent of the total budget in five of the last six years.
  • There is limited availability of disaggregated gender-specific data sets for all schemes and programmes under various ministries. In the absence of this data, it is difficult to study the impact of budgetary allocations on gender equality.
  • Studies examining the design and methodology adopted in India’s gender budgeting point out that the lack of outcome-oriented budgeting often turns it into more of an accounting exercise while the central goal of achieving gender parity takes a back seat.
  • The budgeting exercise is linked to schemes instead of outcomes. For example, in the Budget for 2015-16 there are funds allocated for infrastructure maintenance under the ministry of health and family welfare. However, there is very little data available on the impact these funds made in reducing female mortality rates.
  • There are only a few “big budget” women exclusive schemes of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) like the Nirbhaya Fund and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign.
  • Lack of dedicated human resources to implement the interventions identified by the Gender Budgeting Cells.
  • Monitoring remains one of the weakest links in the GRB work with no designated mechanism for monitoring it at the national level.
  • India is now one of the worst performers in South Asia,it is now ranked 140 among 156 countries, as per Global Gender Gap report 2021 in terms of inequality in economy, education, health and political representation.
    • The report notes that the economic participation gender gap actually widened in India by 3% this year and the share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2%.
    • Theestimated earned income of women in India is only one-fifth of men’s.
  • The rationale for gender budgeting arises from recognition of the fact that national budgets impact men and women differently through the pattern of resource allocation.
  • Women, constitute 48% of India’s population, but they lag behind men on many social indicators like health, education, economic opportunities, etc.
  • All measures across the globe taken towards development, poverty alleviation and improvement of social indicators like health, education and gender equality are worthless unless policies are implemented specifically for women and girls.
  • Women face disparities in access to and control over services and resources.
  • Bulk of the public expenditure and policy concerns are in ‘‘gender neutral sectors”.

In order to make more effective and outcome-oriented gender budget, Debbie Budlender’s following five-step framework for GRB can be considered:

  • Analysing the situation of women, men, girls and boys;
  • Assessing the gender-responsiveness of policies;
  • Assessing if budgetary allocations are adequate;
  • Monitoring spending and service delivery; and
  • Assessing outcomes.

One of the biggest achievements of gender-responsive budgeting is the mainstreaming of the idea that a gender lens is important within the fiscal discourse. Thus, Gender Budgeting is a powerful tool for achieving gender mainstreaming so as to ensure that benefits of development reach women as much as men. We need to push for policies that not merely assist women to fulfil their traditional roles, but also to promote them in roles that will change existing gender positions. At the same time, there is also a need to revisit our approach from time to time, and tailor our budgeting practices to suit the emergent needs and trends.