I have always been a staunch supporter of Gender Budgeting (GB) and, in spite of some disappointments, I still believe that it is as a powerful instrument for gender equality.
My interest in GB began when in September 2000 my colleague and friend, Francesca Bettio, persuaded me to organize the first international workshop on the subject in Italy with her. Since then, I have taken part in several GB initiatives in the role of consultant for local administrations and government agencies. I directed a project of the European Commission that evaluated the European Social Fund’s support for Gender Equality in 2007-2013, and authored a report on gender policy in Italy for the European Parliament.
Participation in several staff training seminars for Equal Opportunity advisors and administrators and lecturing in courses on gender equality have given me many opportunities to reflect on my GB experiences. In Italy, the lack of a national law to make GB mandatory, and above all to supply experts with adequate guidelines, has had two implications:
- The first, a positive one, is that participants in any GB initiative have had to exert all their ingenuity to invent an appropriate methodology. There has been a lot of learning by doing. For example, we have understood the importance of indicators of gender equality and relative benchmarks for a correct context analysis, but these indicators must be limited in number and easy to collect. Thus, positive results have been obtained in interpreting demographic data in terms of the needs of the population and/or the workload of caregivers.
- The other one, a negative implication, implication of the lack of a national law is that most GB exercises have been short-lived. They have usually relied on the good will of a member of the administration, and did not survive government changes. GB has never become part of the ordinary budgeting procedure. Austerity measures and the end of European funding support have worsened the situation, although it is now that GB would be necessary to evaluate the impact of budget cuts on gender equality.
What can be done? I think that if we could agree upon a common and clear methodology for GB , it would be easier to convince government, administrations and the general public of its importance.
Prof. Annalisa Rosselli is professor of economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata.