Women, particularly in South-Asia, constitute the largest section of the society who are repeatedly excluded from the fruits of any regional economic expansion. Economic integration demands for an overall social inclusivity with a subsequent reduction in poverty, illiteracy, and inequality. It also encourages women and other disadvantaged or backward groups to participate actively in the decision or policy-making initiatives of the government, which directly affects their livelihood.
In the past few decades, Nepal has seen a rise in the importance of a Gender-Responsive Budget (GRB) and inclusive governance within its economic strategy. The process of mainstreaming gender into macro-policy making began back during the 8th Five Year Plan (1992-1997) when it was initiated as a joint effort between the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the United Nations (UN) Women Body. Introduced officially by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007-08, GRB seeks to ensure that the needs and interests of women, men and children likewise are effectively addressed in the annual budget. Subsequently, a ‘Gender Auditing Module’, has been incorporated in the budget formulation process, which analyzes sectors such as agriculture, energy, tourism, labour, and industry through a gender perspective[i].
As part of broader efforts to institutionalize GRB in Nepal, a Gender Responsive Budget Committee has been established within the Ministry of Finance (MoF). It includes representatives from the National Planning Commission (NPC), Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW), Ministry of Local Development (MoLD), which has now been replaced by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNDFEM). The committee has been mandated to design a GRB methodology, which can be applied at various sectoral levels to monitor the budget allocations and public expenditure along with analyzing the impact of development policies on men and women. It also has the additional responsibility of providing the sectoral ministries with policy guidelines for proper implementation of GRB.
The MoF uses five qualitative indicators to analyze budget allocations from gender lenses, which are all assigned an equal weight of 20% each[ii]:
- Women’s capacity development,
- Women’s participation in programme formulation and implementation,
- Benefit incidence of public expenditures on women,
- Support for women’s employment and income generation,
- Positive impact on women’s time use and care work.
Additionally, the sectorial ministries are also required to categorize their programme budgets based on three board categories:
- Directly benefiting women: To ensure that more than 50% women are benefitted from government funded programmes,
- Indirectly benefiting women: To ensure that at most 25%-50% of women are benefitted from government funded programmes, and,
- Neutral: When government funded programmes are beneficial to less than 20% of women.
Current Scenario: Although Nepal leads in Gender Responsive Budget in the South Asian sub-region, a much higher level of GRB is expected from our government given the fact that women representation stands at 34%, 35%, and 41% at the central, provincial, and local level, respectively[iv]. Hence, a reduction in gender inequality can gradually increase inclusivity along with providing the much-needed economic boost to our country.
Talking beyond the gender perspective, the contemporary economic system measures the production of labour, but at the same time, it refuses to acknowledge the reproduction of labour or domestic labour such as home cares for children and elderly. Hence, a shift to performance-based budgeting from a program budgeting, which can assimilate social policy goals as gender budgeting is utmost important in an economy like ours. For instance, the total budget for the current fiscal year (2019-2020) amounts to NPR 15.3 trillion (USD 137 billion), out of which NPR 585.2 billion (USD 5.24 billion), i.e. approximately 38.17% has been identified as allocations made for programmes that are directly benefiting women. Similarly, the share of indirectly gender-responsive allocations amounts to NPR 545 billion (4.88 billion), i.e. 35.56% of the total budget. Finally, NPR 402.7 billion (USD 3.61 billion), i.e. the remaining 26.27% has been allocated for gender-neutral programmes. Comparing these figures with the data that has been collected for the last five years indicates that additional efforts are needed to make future budgetary processes gender-responsive as no significant transformation has occurred in the allotment of the budget towards the development of women-centric goals and policies, in the last half-decade.
Way Forward: Despite the momentum around GRB in earlier years, the focus remains the GRB Statement, which is limited in scope and has its weakness. Concerted efforts are required in[v]:
- Addressing the gaps in the design and implementation of the GBR,
- Embedding GRB entry points early on in the prioritization stage of budgets,
- Facilitating greater adoption of GRB at the subnational level, including measures to ensure participation of the most marginalized women in planning and revising of the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) policies to reinforce institutionalization of GRB.
- Focusing on post-allocation classification at both central and local level rather than focusing on pre-allocation exercise.
- Improving the availability of sex disaggregated data essential for assessing budgetary impact, and,
- Proper monitoring of expenditures to ensure that gender responsive interventions are being adequately funded,
Furthermore, Nepal could also follow the footsteps of its sub-regional counterparts- Malaysia and Indonesia, who despite their external and internal conflicts, have been successful in inventing one of the most integrated and inclusive budgetary policies in all of South-Asia. Indonesia’s application of gender-responsive budgeting includes:
- Institutionalization at both national and local levels, with the engagement of women, senior male public servants, and officeholders,
- Multi-sector planning that is enabled by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee, in close coordination with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and BAPPENS (Ministry of National Development Planning),
- Budget statements, inclusive of qualitative and quantitative information.
Malaysia’s Penang Model has gained prominence for making clear benefits of Gender Responsive and Participatory Budgeting (GRPB) through empowering its citizens, especially women, to become agents of change for their communities.
To sum up, the GRB model, that has been implemented in Nepal is quite progressive and optimistic but more concrete and effective reforms are needed to make it one of the most inclusive methodology in all of South-Asia.
[i] Ministry of Finance (MoF), Nepal. (2019). Retrieved from Ministry of Finance (MoF), Nepal: https://mof.gov.np/en/gender-responsive-budget-76.html
[ii] Baskota, K. H. (2017). Retrieved from EC/UN Partnership on Gender Equality for Development and Peace:
[iii] Ministry of Finance (MoF), Nepal. (2019, June). Retrieved from Gender Responsive Budget Guidelines 2019: https://mof.gov.np/en/gender-responsive-budget-76.html
[iv] Bhattarai, K. D. (2019, February 26). The woeful presence of Nepali women in politics and government. The Annapurna Post. Retrieved from The Annapurna Post:
[v] UNESCAP. (2018, June). Retrieved from United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Gender Responsive Budgeting for Asia and the Pacific.: