Gender budgeting is the application of gender mainstreaming at all levels of the budgetary process. It does not mean creating separate budgets for women, nor does it call for the equal distribution of financial resources between genders. Gender budgeting is about understanding a budget’s impact on women and men’s lives and restructuring revenues and expenditures to achieve gender equality goals.
The rationale for gender budgeting stems from the realisation that gender inequalities are entrenched in public resource allocation. Women usually lag men in accessing education, health, public service and economic opportunities due to a lack of resources. By incorporating a gender perspective, gender budgeting helps improve the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of government policies. Such gender mainstreaming has been practised in several economies where the EBRD invests, including Albania, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Ukraine. As one of the leading countries in the field, Morocco amended its budgetary law in 2014, requiring government budgets to consider gender equality when defining objectives, results and performance indicators.
Although gender budgeting is often applied at the national level, local governments can also take the initiative and introduce feasible practices to deliver targeted gender-responsive measures. In Italy, in 2000, a network of 12 provinces and 9 municipalities was created to share the experience of gender budgeting practices, which significantly increased awareness and involvement at the local level. It was not until 2016 that gender budgeting was introduced at the national level.
There are many different approaches to implementing gender budgeting. There are typically three stages involved: (i) ex ante impact assessment, (ii) budget restructuring and (iii) ex post impact assessment.
The first step is to conduct an ex ante assessment of the effect of individual budget measures on gender equality. A product of this intervention could be a gender-disaggregated report that focuses on the recipients of budgetary programmes. Such an analysis should illustrate the degree to which the budget has addressed recipients’ needs, the challenges of those who have not accessed expected services and how the budget has reduced or intensified gender inequality. Meanwhile, stakeholders and civil society representatives should be consulted during budget preparation. A participatory approach helps define priorities for policy action in the budgetary context.
Once the budget’s differential impact on women and men is understood, various tools can be employed to restructure it and give it a gender perspective. Authorities can require a minimum proportion of budgeted resources to be allocated to gender-responsive policies, for instance, and/or determine gender equality objectives for individual programmes. While most governments tend to increase spending to achieve gender targets, revenues should not be overlooked. For example, childcare tax rebates may need to be restructured if they do not reach lower-income women or women in single-headed households.
The last stage is an ex post impact assessment to understand whether gender equality objectives have been achieved after implementing gender-sensitive interventions in the annual budget. The assessment could be an independent gender audit carried out by an institution other than the budgetary authority. Based on this evaluation, governments should adjust relevant budget measures and/or initiate reforms to change the structures and processes that hamper effective gender budgeting.
Resource implications and key requirements
As a gender mainstreaming tool, gender budgeting requires organisational change. This may entail additional institutional arrangements on both the structural and operational sides. On the structural side, coordination mechanisms ‒ or even separate equality agencies ‒ can be created to promote collective stakeholder efforts (for example, by the budgetary authority, other government departments and citizens). On the operational side, local governments need to ensure that gender dimensions are part of their daily decision-making process rather than a one-time exercise. New procedures, including the three aforementioned stages, will probably need to be integrated into the budgeting cycle.
Adjusting to these changes may require training and capacity building. In addition to demonstrating how to design and utilise gender-responsive budgeting and policies, capacity-building programmes can also strengthen officials’ understanding of local gender inequalities. For example, Mexico has established many gender units within its public administration systems. The function of the gender units includes providing training in gender policy, designing gender-responsive policy and leading evaluations on gender targets. This has led to significant improvement in government institutions’ capacity to undertake gender budgeting.
Another essential requirement is gender-disaggregated data collection, without which an evidence-based gender-sensitive assessment cannot be conducted. The statistics bureau and other data-collection institutions are supposed to work with different departments to determine the data that need to be collected. Besides adding more human resources, improving gender-disaggregated data collection may also require training sessions to help statisticians understand how to include a gender perspective into their work.
Implementation challenges and possible solutions
A common obstacle is a lack of bureaucratic commitment. It might be challenging to persuade civil servants and government officials to allocate enough time and resources to gender budgeting. Local authorities initially appear not to understand why they should be concerned with gender budgeting, while some officials are afraid that gender budgeting may mean increased workload or loss of funding. To address this challenge, it is crucial to start change-management efforts early in the planning and implementation stages. Genuine top-level political commitment is critical to facilitate this. Political leadership can help people adapt to change with education and support. It can also institutionalise gender budgeting by setting clear strategies, plans and targets across the public sector.
One example is Reykjavík, Iceland, where the mayor formed a steering committee in 2011 to introduce gender budgeting. All department directors were asked to collaborate with the steering committee and gender budgeting project manager throughout the process. The city considered changing mindsets as the primary focus, so it arranged training sessions to overcome people’s negative attitudes to gender equality. With concerted political effort, Reykjavík has incorporated gender budgeting into all service fields, and gender budgeting is now one of the main pillars of the city’s budgeting process.
 UN Women (2014), “Morocco's successful case in implementing gender responsive budgets”.
 European Institute for Gender Equality (n.d.), “Gender mainstreaming – Italy”.
 OECD (2017), “Gender Budgeting in OECD countries”.
 City of Reykjavík (2014), “Gender Budgeting in the City of Reykjavik: Fair distribution of goods and assets according to people’s needs”.