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The Commonwealth has taken a leading role in supporting women’s economic, political and social empowerment, for example by encouraging governments to manage spending in a way that addresses gender inequality.

Closing the gender gap

The challenge

Gender inequality is a major barrier to social equity and sustainable development in the Commonwealth. Women continue to play a lesser role than men in leadership and business having limited access to, and control of, resources. Reducing gender disparity is crucial for the development of an equitable, peaceful and sustainable society. While some progress has been made to increase women’s participation, countries are still falling short of global targets to close the gender gap.

There is now broad support for tackling gender inequality through the adoption of gender-responsive budgeting. This tool can be used to analyse the impacts of spending on men, women, boys and girls to promote gender equality and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of national policy implementation and public expenditure. Some countries have successfully adopted gender budgeting, but many are lagging behind because of a lack of capacity, resources and political will.

More than 50 countries worldwide have adopted gender-sensitive budgeting.

Commonwealth action

The Commonwealth has been closely associated with the promotion of gender-sensitive financial management and public spending, building on pioneering initiatives carried out in our member countries; notably Australia, Canada and South Africa. We have provided valuable resources such as the widely cited reports Gender Budgets Make Cents and Gender Budgets Make More Cents.

In 1996, we launched pilot projects in Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, South Africa and Sri Lanka to improve government capacity to apply gender analysis to policy and budgets. A 2014 Commonwealth study into the gender budgeting initiatives of four ‘early adopters’ – Australia, Bangladesh, India and Uganda – demonstrated that gender-responsive budgeting has contributed to equality and public spending in these countries. We have also provided assistance in institutionalising gender-responsive budgeting in Trinidad and Tobago and Tanzania.

Global value

Our work in this area has contributed to the integration of gender-sensitive budgeting in 25 Commonwealth member countries. Worldwide, more than 50 countries have adopted gender budgeting. Our ground-breaking work over the last 20 years has contributed to the integration of gender analysis into fiscal policies and budgets.

We have forged new ground by ensuring that gender is included on the agenda of Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meetings and other high-level conferences. We have also worked in collaboration with strategic partners such as the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other regional bodies to advance the integration of gender budgeting in countries around the world.