Gender-responsive budgeting promotes inclusion

Making budgets work for women's economic empowerment agenda should be the policy priority for the new administration.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Gender-responsive budgeting involves the systematic examination of budget programmes and policies for their impact on women.
  • According to Unesco, it means integrating a gender-perspective into all steps of the budget process to ensure policiesfactor in gender issues in society.

This year’s theme of the International Women’s Day makes a call to inspire inclusion.

One way for Kenya to pinpoint policies needed to reduce gender disparities is through gender-responsive budgeting (GRB), which involves the systematic examination of budget programmes and policies for their impact on women.

According to Unesco, GRB is a means of integrating a gender-perspective into all steps of the budget process to ensure budget policies take into consideration the gender issues in society.

This process aims at reducing inequalities, ensuring budgets reflect the needs of every gender and breaks down generational barriers faced by women in social, economic and political pillars.

In Kenya, there is a legal and policy framework to adopt and implement GRB on a sustainable basis and to pursue gender equitable allocation of resources. Starting with the Constitution, particularly Chapter 4 on the Bill of Rights, and the Public Financial Management Act, 2012.

The Constitution advocates equity as a criterion for determining and distributing revenue among national and county governments, taking into account economic disparities and affirmative action for disadvantaged populations.

The Public Finance Management Act, on the other hand, ensures that government budgets prioritise gender equality and women's empowerment.

The Act requires national and county governments to allocate resources in a gender-responsive manner and to have women involved and represented in the county budget consultation process through public participation.

GRB, therefore, brings together two issues that are not commonly associated with one another, namely gender equity, and public financial planning and management.

The counties are required by the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act to create mechanisms for public participation in their budget processes.

This means every county must set up a budget and economic forum to facilitate consultation on county plans and budgets. Women are required to participate in such forums.

Women’s participation in budgeting not only promotes their access to resources and opportunities for economic advancement but also ensures their perspectives and priorities are considered in the allocation of resources, thus contributing to gender equality and women's empowerment.

Despite this robust legal framework on GRB and the setting up of public participation forums in budgeting, women’s concerns remain as the least resourced.

They range from poor maternal healthcare and poor economic empowerment initiatives to lack of safe houses for survivors of gender-based violence.  

Even though it has been evident that empowering women economically increases productivity, raises incomes, and broadens economic diversification, there is still much work to be done before GRB becomes a reality.

To address this, it is necessary to amend the Public Finance Management Act to provide for accounting officers from state ministries, departments and agencies, as well as the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury to take GRB into account when preparing budgets and submitting them to Parliament.

Finally, county governments should plan appropriately and allocate resources for effective public participation.

The resources could go into providing accessible venues that are conducive to the wellbeing of expectant and breastfeeding mothers, and into seeking the services of translators of official county documents.

The latter is crucial as most women do not adequately participate because of illiteracy.


The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and award-winning civil society lawyer ([email protected]).