Engaging in Public Sector Reform
The reform of public sector institutions and systems can jumpstart the transformation of the norms, policies and practices that shape government planning, budgeting and performance monitoring. While reforms of public sector institutions and systems often aim at the effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of development activities, they typically overlook gender equality. This has meant lost opportunities for progress in fulfilling gender equality commitments; worse, at times it has led to negative impacts on women and greater gender gaps.
For public sector reforms to be fully effective, they need to adopt gender equality as a key objective. UN Women advocates for and aids the achievement of this goal, in areas including budget reform, service delivery, and the decentralization of resources and services from the national to the local level. One primary strategy entails developing capacities among local and national officials to incorporate gender equality in managing public finances, designing and implementing plans and budgets, and carrying out oversight and accountability functions.
In Morocco, UN Women first began advocating gender-responsive planning and budgeting in 2002, as part of the reform of public administration and financial management. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance, significant investments in boosting the skills of planning and budgeting staff included training workshops and the publication of the Handbook for Integrating Gender in Planning and Budgeting. Since 2007, the Prime Minister’s budget guidelines have called for addressing gender equality concerns; all ministries report on performance in a gender report annexed to the annual budget. Among other results, this process has facilitated funding for a new family aid law that extends benefits to poor women undergoing divorce. After an increase in resources for health care for women giving birth, maternal mortality declined.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and UN Women, has adopted a national programme for gender-responsive budgeting. A central strategy entails capacity development for people inside and outside the Government who have roles at various stages of the budget cycle. The programme has provided in-depth trainings, hands-on workshops and mentoring to a core technical team, while civil society groups and parliamentarians have attended sessions on holding the Government accountable for budgetary commitments. As part of institutionalizing training over the longer term, Rwanda’s School of Finance and Banking now delivers a course on gender-responsive budgeting for planning and budgeting officers from various government agencies.
In five African countries, local authorities are learning to formulate gender-sensitive plans and budgets, while local communities are better able to articulate their needs through participation in local planning. Assisted by UN Women and the UN Capital Development Fund, local districts tap into special funds allocated for gender equality. Spending is directed by capital investment plans based on priorities identified by local women’s groups. As a result, women in Tanzania have better access to clean water and are benefitting economically by securing contracts for water service delivery. An electricity project in Mozambique is developing solar energy systems while training women on electrical and mechanical skills. Programmes in Rwanda, Senegal and Sierra Leone are improving women’s options for education and health care.