“There is no Social Justice without Gender Justice”, said Niels Hegewisch, Country Director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Pakistan. In Pakistan, FES has been active since the 1980s with a strong focus on promoting gender equality in the country. “We are proud of the contribution toward empowerment of women we will present here today”, said Niels.
In close cooperation with the Women’s Parliamentarian Caucus (WPC), FES has developed a Strategy Paper on Gender Responsive Budgeting. After FES organized a successful Gender Budgeting Workshop in November 2022 with WPC, experts Marion Böker from Berlin and Elisabeth Klatzer from Vienna have returned to Islamabad to continue the valued cooperation. In the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad, they presented their Strategy Paper based on the prior activities with WPC in November.
Dr. Shahida Rehmani, Secretary of the WPC, highlighted the importance of Gender Budgeting in her opening remarks: “To better understand public spending, we need to apply a gender perspective. Involving women in the budgeting process, ensures their perspectives and needs are considered when designing policies and programs.”
But what exactly is Gender Budgeting and what are its advantages?
According to Marion Böker, author of the strategy paper, Gender Budgeting means "to apply the gender perspective to the budget and to realize equality of all genders, women, men and transgender." Administrative budgets, such as the one developed by Parliament, allocate money to various entities, but not all benefits are distributed equally, and not everyone is affected in the same way if funds are used differently. For example, cuts to healthcare budgets can disproportionately affect women, as care work is typically done by women.
Dr. Elisabeth Klatzer has identified areas where Pakistan needs to take a more gender-inclusive approach to budgeting. One potential area for achieving greater gender equality is through the agriculture sector. New investments in farming can create opportunities to improve working conditions and pay for women, who are often employed in agriculture under poor conditions and low pay.
The IMF has calculated that closing the gender gaps in Pakistan can boost the GDP by 30 per cent, as the two experts write in their strategy paper. Syed Murtaza Mahmud, Federal Minister for Industries and Production Division: “I am thankful for this work. Finding strategies to enhance the position of women – in civil society as well as the workplace – is of utmost importance.” Boosting equality in the labor market does not only empower women and makes society more just, but is also an economic opportunity.
Honorable Raja Pervez Ashraf, Speaker of the National Assembly, was present at the event. He emphasized: “Empowered women make impowered nations. Without strong women, democracy cannot work.” The speaker pointed out, that Gender Responsive Budgeting is one of the most effective ways to ensure women’s needs and rights are met. “It is important to ensure that gender-responsive budgeting is applied at all levels of government and is effectively implemented and monitored.”
The international consultants were amazed by the strong initiative of the WPC and the willingness to apply this concept in Pakistan: “We are happy to have to have worked with such a creative, ambitious group, who wants to take real action toward gender equality”, emphasized Elisabeth Klatzer after the event.