Op-Ed: Gender-Responsive Budgeting – The Way Forward

June 30, 2022

Gender responsive budgeting training session with UNDP Spotlight Initiative

Our commitment to advancing gender equality and promoting women’s empowerment is only as good as our actions. To effect real change, we need to “walk the talk”.

At the time when Parliament has just passed the 2022/23 budget proposed by the Government of Samoa, it is hoped that we will see a marked shift to gender-responsive budgeting through actual and significant allocations towards gender outcomes. We acknowledge that elements of gender-responsive budgeting are already part of broader budget policy conversations. Simply, it’s putting your money where your mouth is.

Gender-responsive budgeting involves analysing budget proposals for their specific and differentiated effect on women and girls, and transforming these budgets in a deliberate way to ensure that Samoa’s international commitments and national development priorities on gender equality are realized, benefitting especially the most vulnerable. It means including a gender perspective in all steps of the budget process and reflecting the gender ambition in the choices, priorities and resource allocation decisions. It means distributing public funds in a way that creates equal opportunities for all Samoans, while levelling the playing field for women and girls. As such, it is an important contribution to the Pathway for the Development of Samoa, which provides for social inclusion, gender equality, and the protection and empowerment of society’s most vulnerable including survivors of domestic violence. Investing in robust gender-disaggregated statistics is important for tracking and analyzing developments.

Moving from policy statements on gender to actual change requires in-depth technical knowledge and understanding of how to do budgeting in a way that achieves concrete outcomes for the most vulnerable. The United Nations family – UNDP under the Spotlight Initiative, along with our sister agencies UN Women and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – have therefore invested significantly in capacity development on gender-responsive budgeting for government officials and civil society in Samoa as part of our commitment to realizing gender equality and mainstreaming. We recognize the critical role the government plays as the duty bearer for ensuring that the human rights of women and girls are respected, promoted and realized, and civil society as a catalyst for driving positive change on gender issues, including domestic violence, through advocacy, engagement, and holding the government accountable for how it spends public funds. 

Political will and political leadership are essential to ensure that gender-responsive budgeting takes root, as is the commitment to embracing a whole-of-society approach to it. I am therefore encouraged to see that following the recent training initiative that UNDP undertook through the Spotlight Initiative in May 2022 in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (MWCSD), an Informal Core Group to advocate for Gender Responsive Budgeting was established. This group comprises representatives from Civil Society Organizations and Government Ministries, and held their first dialogue on 9 June to confirm membership, reach agreement on the group’s roles and responsibilities, and co-create a practical work plan for the next 12 months. The Informal Core Group is overseen by a committee consisting of the CEO of SUNGO, CEO of MWCSD and CEO of the Ministry of Finance.

I hope that with these strong foundations laid, gender-responsive budgeting will gain increasing momentum in the next 1-3 years, and we will see in real time how translating Samoa’s gender commitments into hard fiscal commitments advances gender equality, and creates tangible benefits for the Samoan women and girls.