Promoting Women’s Participation in Local Budgetary Processes
Working with women’s community-based organizations and municipal authorities the project aimed to enhance the social and economic rights of women in Niger by supporting Gender Responsive Budgeting. Integrating a gender perspective into all steps of the municipal budget process, the project focused on improving the capacity of women to advocate municipalities to shape local budgetary policies which consider their health, education and water sanitation concerns.
The project’s strategy of working directly with women community based organization members and municipal officials brought activities closer to beneficiaries in the five targeted municipalities of Niger. This approach was highly relevant to women as a beneficiary group, which for most part, rarely has a voice in public affairs and limited access to political decision-making processes.
Lessons from Project
A sense of ownership by the women NGOs/CBOs members has apparently been achieved in Niger in each targeted municipality. Nevertheless, sustainable ownership of Gender Responsive Budgeting is still fragile and all stakeholders recognize that more time is needed to consolidate the women’s work which has been initiated.
Women NGOs/CBOs members’ capacity in Niger is still basic. Women need to strengthen their political and technical expertise. The women from research/action groups improved their ability to participate in the decision-making process, but there is no evidence that they are able to manage and monitor the compliance of municipal investments (i.e. health, water sanitation, education, etc.). In addition the political weight of women within municipalities is still weak.
The project in Niger has empowered women through giving them skills to analyse budges based on the issues that affect their daily life. However, gender responsive budget analysis alone does not change budget priorities and the decision-making process in ways that truly promote gender equality. Municipal budgets are still a political product and budgetary commitments are allocated according to political priorities. Relevant decision makers could be addressed through evidence-based round-table discussions and lobbying.
More of the budget should have been spent on local project staff based in each target area rather than the grantee’s headquarters. The concrete changes for women were as a result of the work of the local project teams.
The project in Niger has changed stakeholders’ perceptions by opening up new opportunities for cooperation between women and local officials and has reinforced social and economic cohesion. After the project, the women of research/action groups were invited by other development partners to share their experience with others municipalities.
The project in Niger has changed the perception of women among men in the municipal administration. The project succeeded in informing and motivating municipal officials for improving local governance through a more realistic programming and implementation of the municipal budget.
Enhancing practical skills of women on action research and gender-responsive analysis allowed women to participate in local governance more effectively and in a collaborative way. The women’s action research groups were involved in all phases of the project. They analysed their own municipal budget and identified budgetary problems and issues to raise with the local administration and elected officials.
An important indicator of the project’s relevance was its consistency with Niger’s health, education and water sanitation sector priorities, which frequently concern women first and of which they are barely consulted about.
The fact that the grantee organised meetings with all parties was an important first step in building mutual trust and facilitating a common understanding of gender issues through municipal budget in Niger. Most women and municipal officials who participated said it was the first time they had the opportunity to work jointly on Gender Responsive Budgeting issues.