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Filed under: Gender equality Human rights Poverty Social inclusion

People putting their faces in cutouts of different bodies - male, female, big small

Trying on gender roles in Lublin, at Gender Check! Summer School

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently pointed out that inequalities between men and women remain significant, even in developed countries.

What kind of inequalities did he have in mind? For instance, feminization of poverty: out of 1.5 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day, almost 70 percent are women.

In Poland, the feminization of poverty can be seen in the labour market. Women on average are better educated than men, constituting almost 60 percent of university students. At the same time, a lower proportion of women are in paid employment (43 percent, in comparison with 58 percent of men) , and when they are employed, they earn less than their male counterparts.

In 2010 the average wage of women was 15 percent lower than the average wage of men. And the gap only increases in male-dominated professions. Demographically, in Europe, the majority of elderly people living in poverty are women, and in Poland their pensions are about 30 percent lower than men’s.

Worldwide, estimates suggest that the value of women’s unpaid housework and community work is between 10 to 35 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Women also spend more time doing unpaid family care work. At the same time, households headed by women are usually poorer than those run by men.

How can this disparity be reflected in financial decisions, both at national and local levels?

Gender-responsive budgeting can help with the analysis of fiscal policy, taking notice of the unequal distribution of resources in society. This includes collection of revenue, and planning of expenditure that takes into account the impact on both men and women. (See: How to do a gender-sensitive budget analysis: contemporary research and analysis (pdf)). The first step is an in-depth analysis of needs, containing gender-disaggregated data.

It is worth noting that, following the request of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, starting from 2013 the Central Statistical Office will incorporate gender into official statistics to a larger extent. On one hand, it should publish more sex disaggregated data, that is already collected by the Central Statistics Office, but not made available to the general public. On the other, it was requested to disaggregate more data by sex, particularly to combine it with other factors, such as education, profession or place of residence. This should make it easier to carry out such analyses on a national level.

Once we understand the needs, gender-sensitive budget analysis means taking a good look both at the expenditures and the decision-making processes happening around them. Projects that the authorities allocate funds to reflect not only their priorities, but also internal hierarchies and decision-making within institutions. Analysis may show that seemingly neutral financial decisions in fact lead to different results for women and men.

In Poland, the Government programme My Sports Field, concentrated on building general-access, free of charge sports fields with locker rooms in all Polish municipalities. Since the programme is aimed at “making modern sports infrastructure available for children and youth,” it may seem it is a gender-neutral investment. In fact, mostly boys benefit from these fields, since they are the ones who play football. Of course, it is not about depriving them of this possibility, or forcing the girls to play more football, but about planning such expenses equitably, taking into account the needs of both boys and girls.

The goal of gender budgeting in this case would be to allocate comparable funding to secure the conditions for both boys and girls to practice those kinds of sports that interest them the most.

Gender analysis can also demonstrate which groups carry different financial burdens, how, and with what consequences. Elaine Zuckerman, President and Founder of Gender Action, argues that value added tax (VAT), particularly when imposed on basic products, constitutes a much greater burden for people living in poverty. If we consider the feminization of poverty, we may discover its particular impact on women.

Globally, gender-sensitive budget analyses are implemented in over 60 countries, both those with very high human development and those confronting greater development challenges. (See: Gender Budgets Make Cents (pdf) and Gender Budgets Make More Cents (pdf))

What’s the situation in Poland?

In 2004 and 2005, the Network of East West Women in Poland conducted a budget assessment for Gdansk (pdf) and its impact on both women and men. Sadly, their recommendations were not satisfactorily implemented, and few other activities related to gender budgeting took place in the country.

In order to promote gender-responsive budgeting, the UNDP office in Poland has invited municipalities to participate in a contest on gender-sensitive policies. Four municipalities will be awarded six-month expert tutorials on gender policies and budgeting.

We hope to show that gender-responsive budgeting can help to respond to real needs of both male and female citizens and contribute to equality between women and men.

Do you know examples of successful gender budgeting at the municipal level?

What challenges should we get ready for?