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A national budget is one of government's central instruments of economic management, reflecting the values and strategies of a country. Successful development depends largely on the efficiency, integrity and effectiveness with which the state raises, manages and expends public resources.

The national budget has three main functions, which can be summarised as allocation of public goods and services (which is where public expenditure traditional gender-responsive budgeting focuses), the distribution of income and wealth and the promotion of economic growth and stability.  Limited resources at the state level make it imperative that innovative approaches to the allocation of existing resources be employed.

One such innovation is the gender analysis of public budgets, which is emerging as an important tool for determining the differential impact of expenditures on women and men to help ensure the equitable use of existing resources. This analysis is crucial to promote gender equality and more equitable re-distribution of resources.

By definition, gender is a socially and culturally-defined set of economic and political roles, responsibilities, rights, entitlements and obligations, as well as privileges and assumptions, associated with being female and male. The current gender emphasis on women is, however, to take account of the widely held view that women (and the girl child) have been prejudiced and disadvantaged for too long, compared to their male counterparts.  There is, therefore, need to take deliberate action to correct for these past injustices and discrimination, in order to bring women and the girl child to equality with men. The overriding objective, however, is not to bring men down, as there are some men who have also been marginalized, disadvantaged and discriminated. There is empirical evidence to the effect that empowering women contributes immensely to the health and productivity of families and communities, which improves the prospects for, and prosperity of the next generations. Most gender policy interventions are, therefore, deliberately aimed at uplifting the status of women, to bring it to some level of equity with that of men.

In this regard, MEFMI organised a two week workshop on Public Finance Management and Gender-Responsive Budgeting (GRB) on 25 September - 6 October 2017 in Swaziland.  The course intended to address the most critical issues to create a common understanding on the subject matter of gender and budgeting, to introduce some basic gender concepts and gender analysis tools, and to familiarise participants with how to formulate, analyse and read national budgets. The main objective was to provide participants with techniques in effective Public Finance Management and analysis, whilst also providing budgetary transparency mechanisms that address gender biases in economic sectors. The course aimed at providing tools for the introduction of equity in budget formulation and analysis. It also aimed at enabling participants to share country experiences on implementing policies using gender lenses and to explore the relevance of gender sensitivity as a criterion for evaluation of economic policy

The training workshop was started with the opening session by the Director of the Macroeconomic Management Programme (MMP) at MEFMI, Dr. Sehliselo Mpofu. She informed the participants that the workshop was part of the first steps towards addressing the objective of MEFMI Phase V Strategic Plan, which emphasises mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues such as regional integration, gender issues, anti-corruption and HIV/AIDS.  She mentioned that during Phase V, all MEFMI activities would be gender sensitised, while anti-corruption would be mainstreamed in all capacity building activities, including introducing specific topics within course curricular. She thanked her co-facilitators, Mr. Samuel Tarinda and Dr. Sephooko Motelle, for accepting to facilitate at the workshop.

She also extended appreciation to the participants for attending the workshop, and most importantly, their Principals, who released them to attend. She urged the participants to reflect on how they could capitalise on their different perspectives and mandates to accelerate the achievement of Public Finance Management and gender equality in the countries that they serve. She added that MEFMI workshops shall focus on strengthening capacities, improving methodologies and ensuring that the work of organisations in Public Finance Management reflects the gender perspective. These issues were considered essential and that everyone needed to continue to address them. She informed the participants that they needed not to slow down the momentum created within their organisations. She highlighted that MEFMI activities aimed at improving macroeconomic and financial management, thereby supporting economic growth and sustainable development, and that these goals could not be met without including all key stakeholders, women and men, girls and boys.

Dr. Sehliselo Mpofu acknowledged that the workshop drew on a wide range of experiences and expertise for countries such as Uganda and Zimbabwe, whose participants mentioned that they were already analysing official documents and national budgets for gender sensitivity. She mentioned that the workshop would be a catalyst for improving the competencies of participants in identifying and addressing gender biases in economic sectors and in economic policy.  She urged participants to explore the relevance of gender sensitivity as part of key criterion for evaluation of economic policy. She also acknowledged that 9 out of 14 MEFMI countries were represented. She outlined that strong networking links were expected to emerge from the workshop, to foster long-run exchange of ideas and experiences among professionals in the region, and that there was a need to strengthen these synergies, as countries build gender-responsive societies and achieve a more fairer allocation of resources in preparation for deepening economic inter-linkages in the region. She reminded the group that the workshop was a macroeconomic policy management workshop, which she expected, would bring new insights to their work. She expressed the desire for a successful two weeks of learning, and focusing on economic policy with gender lenses.

The official opening of the workshop was done by Mr. Bheki Bhembe, the Principal Secretary Ministry of Finance, Swaziland.  Mr. Bhembe thanked everybody for participating in the workshop. He outlined that there was no doubt that there was a need for gender analysis of public budgets, which is emerging as an important tool for determining the differential impact of expenditures on women and men, girls and boys, in a bid to help ensure the equitable use of existing resources. More importantly, he stressed that the gender analysis of the national budgets was crucial to ultimately promote gender equality, which is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.  He explained that the national budget was one of the government’s central instruments of economic management, reflecting the values and strategies of the country and that its successful development depends largely on the efficiency, integrity and effectiveness with which the state raises, manages and expends public resources, stressing that without a budget, no policies would be implemented.  Mr. Bhembe assured participants that the course would undoubtedly offer them, as practitioners in the field, an excellent opportunity to learn, share experiences, and to reflect on the latest developments and areas for improvement on issues relating to the Public Finance Management and Gender-Responsive Budgeting in their home countries.

In addition, Mr. Bhembe mentioned that he expected that strong networking links would emerge out of the workshop to foster long-run exchange of ideas and experiences among professionals in the region. He then pointed out the need to strengthen the synergies in building a harmonised data base in preparation for deepening economic inter-linkages in the region. He concluded by urging everyone to work hard, and invited everyone to take some time off their busy workshop schedule to enjoy Swaziland hospitality and to freely explore the boundless beauty of the country, sample local cuisine and explore the attractive tourism products on offer.

MEFMI activities aim at improving macroeconomic and financial management, thereby supporting economic growth and sustainable development. The MEFMI Phase V (2017-2021) Strategic Plan focuses on, among other things, mainstreaming of gender in all operational activities and programmes, including the national budgets.

 

 

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