Reading time ~ mins

Lessons learned

Factors that lead to success

Simply analysing the likely impact of the budget or monitoring the impact in practice is valuable work, but if it is to lead to change there needs to be a long-term strategy to influence the behaviour of governments. Based on our own experience and extensive discussions with groups carrying out similar work we have identified several important factors that lead to changes in government policy or law.

An understanding of political context

The Women’s Budget Group’s success in bringing about change has varied hugely depending on the changing political context (see section on What Gender Budget Analysis Can Show). Opportunities for action and the best approach to campaigning and framing arguments will of course vary depending on the political situation.

It’s important to identify the key gender issues in the country in which you live. For example, in the UK, primary education for girls is not an issue, but access to lifelong learning and technical apprenticeships is. Similarly, in the UK access to water and sanitation is widely available, but public transport isn’t

WBG member

In contexts where governments are resistant to gender responsive budgeting (GRB) there are still initiatives that civil society can take. This might include:

  • carrying out their own analysis of the budget to highlight gaps;
  • framing the need for GRB in the language of government priorities;
  • analysing the gender impact of specific policy proposals.

Civil society participation

Civil society organisations have always played an important role within WBG, because turning analysis into political change needs a wider movement. Many organisations have brought their front-line experience to WBG research and analysis, and used that analysis to support their public campaigning.

Champions and allies in key positions

Building relationships with key allies has helped WBG gain access to politicians and policy-makers as well as promote our analysis in the media and civil society. WBG’s access and influence has depended on who is in power and what their priorities are. Global experience on gender budgeting shows how fragile work can be in this area and how easily a change of government can reverse hard won gains.

If you want to influence parliament you need to find people you can work with, build relationships and give your allies evidence that they can use to advance your cause

Woman MP

Institutional mechanisms

Although allies are important, strong institutional mechanisms can help ensure that gender budgeting work isn’t dependent on the support of a few key individuals. Mechanisms can include constitutional, legal or policy requirements to consider gender in planning processes.

However, the UK experience shows how legal obligations don’t automatically translate into action. The UK Treasury has been widely criticised for not carrying out meaningful analysis of the equality impact of the budget, despite a legal obligation to have ‘due regard’ to equality under the Public Sector Equality Duty. This suggests that legal obligations need strong enforcement mechanisms if they are to be effective.

Credible analysis

Policy-makers need reliable evidence and analysis. Allies within government (whether ministers or officials) need evidence and analysis to persuade colleagues to act. WBG’s work is widely recognised by politicians and policy-makers as credible and reliable. At the same time politicians who are resistant to a gender analysis of budgets may criticise the methodology used in order to undermine credibility. WBG makes sure it can defend its methodologies to respond to these criticisms.

Some people want detail, some want headlines. I liked the fact that WBG presentations were backed up with very detailed and robust analysis

Woman MP

Statistics and Indicators

To analyse the potential or actual impact of budget policies on women and men, WBG has needed a large amount of statistical data disaggregated by gender (and other factors such as income, ethnicity or disability). Lack of gender disaggregated data is a major barrier to gender budgeting. In some countries the first step for a gender budget group is to persuade governments to analyse and publish gender disaggregated data (and sometimes provide them with technical support to enable them to do this). This may not involve a great deal of work; governments often record sex when they are collecting data from individuals, but may need persuading to publish this data in a way that shows differences between women and men.

You don’t have to do everything yourselves. Make good use of analysis done by other organisations even if they do not have a gender equality perspective, e.g. independent research institutes that work on fiscal policy, socio-economic inequality, racial inequality etc

WBG member

Getting the timing right

As the budget cycle diagram shows there are often multiple opportunities to have an impact on the budget process. However timing can be critical. Impact assessments carried out long after a budget is published will be too late to influence that budget’s passage through parliament and could also be forgotten by the time of the next budget.

Remember this is a long-term project

Persuading governments to adopt a gender budgeting approach can take many years, only for policies to be reversed with a change of government. It is important to plan for the long term and to build relationships across parties to be ready to take advantage of new opportunities as political contexts change.

Political opportunities can change suddenly. You can produce analysis that does not seem to have much impact because the political opportunity is not there. But when things change organisations need to be able to move quickly, so analysis needs to be done and organisations need to be ready

WBG member