Government budgets that work for women and girls

Nguyen Thu Huong Active citizenship, Gender, Governance

What could putting females, and other genders, at the heart of government budgets look like? Clare Coffey and Nguyen Thu Huong introduce a new tool to help.

We all know that money matters and how governments collect and spend their budgets is a case in point. We need governments budgets because they fund schools and teachers, hospitals and staff. But we also need to make sure that when the government sets taxes or decides where to invest, it takes on board what different choices may mean for different groups of people, including women and men from different social groups.

Oxfam has a long history of working to make budgets more transparent and of holding politicians and companies to account for how money is gathered; we see this as being central to tackling rising inequality levels. But there is so much more to do, especially if we want government budgets to help change the social ‘rules’ that are at the heart of inequality.

This is a huge job and if we’re really going to make a change, we need to move up a gear so that we do more and do it better. Since joining Oxfam last year I’ve been working with colleagues and partners in different parts of the world, and with feminist economists from a leading voice on gender budgeting – the Women’s Budget Group, to see how we can advance the position of women and young people so that they be part of conversations around government budgets. A new set of Oxfam Gender Responsive Budgeting resources – including a guide and a simple budget cycle training tool – will I hope, start to open the way for more people and groups, and especially women and women’s organisations, to join in and take action.

Our budget cycle tool is designed to help activists, experts and policy makers consider what putting females, and other genders, at the heart of government budgets would look like. That way we can decide where best to focus our energies for lasting impact in our own countries and contexts. We’ve had a chance to try out the diagram with Vietnam and Kenyan colleagues and partners, and are now ready to roll it out more widely. It’s a great, simple aide and I’m looking forward to working with other Oxfam teams and partners especially, to roll the tool out.

Nguyen Thu Huong, senior governance programme manager at Oxfam in Vietnam:

Gender responsive budgeting seems complicated but Oxfam’s budget cycle tool, introduced during a training, has helped us and our partners see the big picture when it comes to gender budgeting. Since being introduced to the tool, our partners including the women’s rights network Cepew have been using it in their work with youth and ethnic groups. It has provided an entry point for these groups who are now looking at gender in the context of funding for healthcare, agricultural extension services and vocational training in rural areas. Cepew has meanwhile gone on to participate in research to see how government proposals to increase  VAT on basic food items are likely to impact men and women differently, something they probably would not have done before the training.


Anna Marriott


Jacky Repila