Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice programme helps ensure fair allocation of resources for all


Women and men experience life differently, as they have different needs and realities, and this is why gender responsive budgeting is important. Photo: Pixabay

Women and men experience life differently, as they have different needs and realities and this is why gender responsive budgeting is important: It takes these differences into account when mobilising and distributing resources, says Engender Consultancy founder and managing director Omna Sreeni-Ong.

"A gender responsive budget is a budget that works for everyone – women and men, girls and boys – by ensuring a gender-equitable distribution of resources which contributes to equal opportunities for all," she explains.

"People's identities vary depending on their gender, ethnicity, age, nationality, education, social status, marital status, disability or income – all of which may overlap and intersect in ways that create or compound deprivation and disadvantage. This results in women and men experiencing life differently. Women may disproportionately face challenges and barriers and their concerns must be considered and understood within the context of historical and intergenerational structural inequalities," she says.

"A gender responsive approach identifies gender bias and discrimination to address different needs of girls and boys; and women and men to create an environment that promotes gender equal outcomes for all," she adds.

A gender responsive approach identifies gender discrimination to address different needs of girls and boys; and women and men, to create an environment that promotes gender equality, says Omna. Photo: Engender/Omna Sreeni-OngA gender responsive approach identifies gender discrimination to address different needs of girls and boys; and women and men, to create an environment that promotes gender equality, says Omna. Photo: Engender/Omna Sreeni-OngOmna was speaking on the launch of the second cohort of the Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice (GRBiP) programme held recently in Kuala Lumpur.

The GRBiP programme is a social impact initiative of Engender Consultancy and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) together with the Gender Budget Group, in collaboration with the Finance Ministry. The capacity building programme was developed to provide ongoing training and coaching on gender responsive budgeting for ministries and agencies. It was launched by the Ministry in July 2022 and conducted as a pilot programme with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry.

Currently in its second year, the programme will be conducted for the gender focal point teams of ministries. The 2023 cohort includes the Communications and Digital, Domestic Trade and Cost of Living, and Youth and Sports Ministries.

According to Omna, it's not about creating separate budgets for women and men, but rather, it’s about analysing how budget measures affect each gender and then purposefully raising revenue and allocating public resources in a way that addresses disadvantage, exclusion, and inequalities through more efficient allocations.

"By doing so, this encourages a gender perspective in policies and national programmes; and it translates Government’s commitments for gender equality into monetary commitments," she says.

WAO advocacy director Abinaya Mohan at the GRBiP programme. Photo: Instagram/WAOWAO advocacy director Abinaya Mohan at the GRBiP programme. Photo: Instagram/WAOWAO advocacy director Abinaya Mohan says that gender responsive budgeting is the process to ensure that “our National Budget works for everyone, men and women, boys and girls”.

“It responds accordingly by allocating specific budgets for both women and men beneficiaries in projects and programmes, hence the term ‘gender-responsive budget’, she says.

“Our first initiative involved drawing up a budget memorandum and providing allocation recommendations for Budget 2021. This was considerably successful as we secured RM20 million for domestic violence shelters from the government. The implementation of this allocation however, needs further monitoring,” she adds.

WAO and Engender, co-leads of the Gender Budget Group Malaysia, kicked off its Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice (GRBiP) programme for the second cohort of ministries to integrate/incorporate GRB as a tool towards achieving gender equality. Photo: Instagram/WAOWAO and Engender, co-leads of the Gender Budget Group Malaysia, kicked off its Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice (GRBiP) programme for the second cohort of ministries to integrate/incorporate GRB as a tool towards achieving gender equality. Photo: Instagram/WAO

GRBiP is part of a larger initiative of Engender and WAO in their efforts to "engender the national budget". It was conceived organically through a series of initiatives which began in 2019 with Engender’s Roundtable: Gender Lens on Budget 2020, a multi-stakeholder budget scrutiny of the national budget.

Following this, Engender and WAO teamed up to conduct a capacity building programme for civil society organisations (CSOs) and thereafter founded the Gender Budget Group (Malaysia) which was launched in July 2021.

In 2021, they set up the Gender Budget Group – a coalition of 21 CSOs and 18 academics and in the process of doing this, they had run workshops for ministries to introduce gender responsive budgeting.

They had participants from 13 ministries attend which they felt showed a good interest on the issue, says Abinaya.

"We realised early on that ongoing capacity building was integral in any efforts to make gender equality a reality. We felt then that It was also important that we walk this journey with all stakeholders – government, CSOs, legislators, academics and the public. It would take a whole of society ecosystem to accelerate the process," says Omna.

The collaborative GRBiP programme supports gender mainstreaming efforts and seeks to assess the impact of government revenue and expenditure on women, men, girls and boys. Photo: Instagram/WAOThe collaborative GRBiP programme supports gender mainstreaming efforts and seeks to assess the impact of government revenue and expenditure on women, men, girls and boys. Photo: Instagram/WAO

In 2022, in collaboration with the Finance Ministry, they launched the first cohort of Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice with representatives from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development as well as the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives.

“We were quite selective with which ministries to spearhead the two-day programme with as it would be most effective to have some semblance of understanding around gender and working towards gender equality,” says Abinaya.

“The programme’s purpose is to provide tailored training on gender and gender responsive budgeting for various ministries and agencies. It is based on step-by-step immersive sessions that challenge the participants’ understanding of gender and how they engage with their annual budget submission. It makes them really look into their projects and programmes, to understand the needs of their target communities. It is also complimentary to the government-wide reinstatement of gender focal points in every ministry. It begins with an induction course, which is meant to be introductory and is followed by a practitioner’s network series,” she says.

"Currently, the programme is in the capacity building phase with several ministries. We hope to see the integration of gender responsive budgeting within the ministry framework and reflected in the national budget, but more importantly, our programme is working towards seeing the practical realisation of gender equality outcomes in the lived realities of the population. It will require consistency in our efforts and the government’s continued support and leadership," concludes Omna.


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