In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to have initiated suffrage rights for women. Since then, many countries have followed the recognition of women’s right to vote the latest being Saudi Arabia in 2011. The whole concept of allowing women to vote is seen as a progressive measure, but why? Why should women be allowed to vote? Women should be allowed to vote so that they are adequately represented in that institution of their respective countries, which claims to be running that country, i.e. the government.
But, how does getting adequately represented help?
If a particular group is rightly represented in the government, then the policies that the government makes should result in equitable availability of opportunities for that group. This means that after women got the suffrage rights they were rightly represented in the various countries which offered those rights and they got equitable opportunities in their respective countries. However, this is not the phenomenon witnessed in most countries, which is precisely the reason why we need gender-sensitive budgeting across countries.
When we speak of gender budgeting, we are basically referring to the act of filling the gaps in various sectors. According to a report of the Council of Europe from 2005, gender budgeting has been defined as a “gender based assessment of budgets incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality.” Hence, gender budgeting is a method of paving way for equal opportunities for both men and women right from the level of the national purse itself. As a measure of policy making, gender budgeting can be incorporated at various levels of governance. For instance, in Austria, gender budgeting features at the Central level of policy making; in Andalusia of Spain, one can note gender budgeting at the regional or local levels as well.
In terms of education in India, a report from last year indicates that the number of girls in India who had completed 5 years of primary school education was merely 48%. When such a small section of almost half of the population receives the social benefits and the larger section is left behind, then we need to take into account the need for better inclusivity in policy making. The aforementioned case of poor attendance of females in primary schools would have definitely improved had the budget of the country been structured in a way that prioritized removing the impediments in the way of the females trying to acquire primary education.
Likewise, the labor force participation of women is quite low for most countries. The world Labor force participation rate of females (modeled International Labor Organization estimate) as of 2016 was as low as approximately 49% whereas in the same indicator the percentile for males was about 76%. Unfortunately, such a huge difference is not at all surprising because the amount of burden of looking after the family is perceived to be the job of women. If this does not call for a gender sensitive budget making process, then what does?
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) has started gender budgeting; in fact, it has started providing “funding for programmes that reduce women’s burden of caring after family, making it easier for them to join the workforce,” as reported by The Economist. The whole concept of gender budgeting is not just based on a moral idea of bringing about equality in the society, but a strategy to yield better economic results as well. According to a study of McKinsey Global Institute, if we remove gender inequality from labor market of Latin America then its GDP could rise by 34%.
The case for gender budgeting is something for every country to consider on a full-fledged scale for both social and economic development. The efforts in such a direction will never be completed if they are limited to policy making; further attempts will be required to assess the proper implementation of such policies. This is a case to be taken seriously, not only at the legislative, but at the bureaucratic level as well.
-Contributed by Richa Bhatt
Picture Credits: eige.europa.eu