Establishing the federal budget is always a crucial moment in the parliamentary process of any democracy, whether in Pakistan or Germany. Long hours, countless questions and detailed figures have to be discussed to secure a functioning economy and tackle urgent political challenges.
Getting a new perspective into this process was the goal of a recent workshop conducted by the FES Pakistan with the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) upon the invitation of WPC Secretary and Member of National Assembly Shahida Rehmani. In cooperation with experts Dr. Elisabeth Klatzer and Marion Böker from Germany, WPC and FES Pakistan launched the first phase of their project to introduce Gender Budgeting on the federal level. The Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, made up of female Senators and Members of the National Assembly of Pakistan, aims at enhancing the role of women in the parliamentary process. Together with the German experts, the non-partisan forum initiated a successful discussion on gender-based budgeting in Pakistan.
But what is Gender Budgeting?
“To apply the gender perspective to the budget means to realize equality of all genders, women, men and transgender,” says Marion Böker. Administrative budgets, like the one Parliament has to develop, award money to various entities. But not all benefits are allocated equally and not everybody suffers the same, if funds are used otherwise. For instance, cuts in healthcare-budgets affect women differently, since care work is predominantly done by women.
Dr. Elisabeth Klatzer identified different areas, where Pakistan needs to take the gender-perspective more into account. A significant potential to achieve more gender equality through the budgeting process lies in the agriculture sector. Newly announced investments in the farming-sector open up possibilities to improve gender equality and working conditions for women, since many women are employed in agriculture, often under dire working conditions and with little pay.
And there are more areas in which gender equality in Pakistan can be promoted through the budgeting process. After the devastating floods in summer 2022, the flood-relief and reconstruction offer opportunities and potentials to involve women equally in decision-making. If the female perspective is considered in the rebuilding of infrastructure, the renewal becomes more inclusive, family-friendly and future oriented. Another promising field for the introduction of Gender Budgeting in Pakistan are health and education to equally share the burden of care work and provide education opportunities regardless of one’s gender.
A crucial condition for the successful implementation of Gender Budgeting in Pakistan is the involvement of key stakeholders from parliament, government, academia and civil society. WPC and FES organized a hearing with experts on the topic to initiate a meaningful dialogue on the implementation and perspectives for Gender Budgeting in Pakistan. Especially the input of Aisha Ghaus Pasha, State Minister of Finance and distinguished economist, was highly valuable.
A visit to WPC secretary Shahida Rehmani’s constituency in Karachi concluded the first phase of the project. In conjunction with high level meetings with the Chief Secretary of Sindh Province Dr. Muhammad Sohail Rajput and other office-bearers the delegation visited schools, medical facilities, vaccination centers and administrative institutions in Gulshan-e-Maymar. The high relevance of Gender Budgeting became apparent during the visit since many of these facilities are run by women and in need of additional funds to provide their services as well as decent working conditions. German experts Dr. Klatzer and Ms. Böker summarized their impressions: “Resources are needed for urgent projects like schools, maternity hospitals with family planning centers or infrastructure, such as the new construction of sewage systems or drinking water pumps.”
In the next phase of the workshop to be held in January, the trainers will develop a strategy paper to provide a roadmap for the introduction of Gender Budgeting on the federal level. WPC already established a committee on Gender Budgeting to further facilitate the process.
The German experts gave an optimistic assessment after the project’s first phase: “The cooperation with the WPC in the first phase was open and committed, we witnessed a strong political will of the deputies, which is a basic prerequisite to create a sustainable process. They, like many NGO representatives, researchers, economists and institutions we could talk to, will work on the process in the long term.”