Inaugural Address by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Coordinator at the 2nd Regional Meeting on Gender Budgeting organized by UNIFEM

15 Oct 2001

Inaugural Address by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Coordinator at the 2nd Regional Meeting on Gender Budgeting organized by UNIFEM
15 October 2001 at Hotel Blue Star

Honb’le Chairperson, Dr. Nirmal Pandey, Member, National Planning Commission, Honb’le Representatives of the Governments of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Honb’le Resource Person, Ms. Debbie Budlender, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to be able to welcome all of you to this important 2nd Regional Meeting on Gender Budgeting. I am delighted that we are able to host this event here in Kathmandu and would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to UNIFEM for the excellent organizational arrangements they have made and for their ongoing efforts to mainstream gender into the budgeting system.

Over the last decades women around the world have made significant gains in areas such as health, work and education. This has partly come about owing to the growing awareness that social and economic development depend significantly on uplifting women’s lives and in ensuring their full participation in development concerns. On the international front, an important landmark reflecting the commitment of the Governments of South Asia and other countries to women’s empowerment includes the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Under this obligation, most of the South Asian countries have committed themselves to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women – legal, social, political and economic. Moreover, International Conferences from the 1st World Conference on Women held in Mexico City in 1975 to the 4th held in Beijing in 1995 have reiterated the call for increased attention to equality between men and women in all areas of society.

Despite this women throughout the world still experience significant social and economic disadvantages and the gender gap continues to be wide, particularly in developing countries. This means is that women stand on an unequal footing with men experiencing differential outcomes as a result of unequal opportunities, sharing of power and resource allocation. To reduce these inequalities initiatives are required to analyze and change related policies, processes, structures and institutions that cause women’s unequal conditions and position in society and state.

Budgetary policies and economics are in general considered as gender neutral. Taxes, revenues and expenditures are not gendered concepts. This gender neutrality should be more accurately described as gender blindness. The way in which a national budget is usually formulated ignores the different, socially determined roles, responsibilities and capabilities of men and women as well as their respective rights. Because women and men lead different economic lives, they face different constraints, assume different socially determined responsibilities and consequently make different choices. Women therefore are affected by and tend to have different responses to the budget as men.

Budgets, either at local or national levels, are the means by which citizens obtain access to goods and by which resources and services are allocated. Budgets and resource allocation establish priorities for action. If budgets fail to be responsive to the needs and demands of the poor and women, resources will not be adequately directed to the achievement of equality and equity goals. As a result of gender blindness many of women’s contributions to national development remain unrecognized, unpaid and unaccounted. The failure to acknowledge women’s contributions perpetuates and reinforces barriers to their equal rights to access economic goods and services.

Without recognizing women’s contributions to the economy and the well being of societies, misleading analyses of efficiency will arise, as has been the case with privatization of public services in the name of increased efficiency and enhanced service delivery. Reductions in public expenditures in education and health services and the imposition of user fees for such services have sometimes resulted in increased work burdens of poor women or a reduction in girls’ educational attainment levels. These, in turn have had adverse effects on not only women’s well being, but also on economic output since increased work burden on women’s time means they cannot participate in other types of output enhancing activities.

A gender sensitive budget asks a simple question: Are women’s needs and interests also included? It demonstrates the recognition of different needs, privileges, rights and obligations that women and men have in society. It recognizes the differential contribution of women and men in the production of goods, services and human labor and in mobilizing and distributing resources. It is a tool of analysis in which the government budget is disaggregated and the effects of expenditures and revenue policies especially on poor women are analyzed.

The purpose of a gender sensitive budget is not to create a separate budget for women and men. Rather the goal is to ensure gender awareness and mainstreaming in all aspects of budgeting at national and local level, to ensure that government expenditure and revenues including sources of allocation are monitored and evaluated from a gender perspective. Gender sensitive budgeting stresses reprioritization rather than an increase in overall government expenditure, reorientation of programs within sectors rather than changes in the overall amounts associated to a particular sector. It promotes a more effective use of resources to achieve both gender equality and human development.

The outcomes of the gender sensitive budgeting exercises carried out in several countries, for example in Sri Lanka and South Africa, have been comprehensive and multidimensional identifying inequalities in economic and resource allocation. Moreover, they have raised awareness in the bureaucracy about the impact of general expenditures’ on women and brought gender issues into economic policy debates in an unprecedented way. In addition, it has been realized that all related actors need to be involved in the process and such. The commitment of Government is especially important providing political support at the highest level and creating an enabling environment. As always, civil society has a critically important supportive role to play.

I am confident that this meeting will significantly contribute to strengthening gender budgeting initiatives in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Let me once again extend my warm welcome to all of you, and wish you success deliberations.

Thank you.