Women at the grassroots including those with disabilities experience social and economic disadvantages and exclusion in decision making platforms. Participatory gender responsive budgeting gives women platforms to present their collective interests to policy makers
Problems and Purpose
Kwale County is among the poorest and most marginalized counties with a poverty rate of 47.4% higher than the National poverty rate of 36.1%. Every fiscal year, the county prepares budgets to guide revenue generation and utilization of public resources. The process has been non-participatory with the decisions being made mostly by men and elite members of the community. Women at the grassroots level including those from marginalized communities and those with disabilities have experienced great social and economic disadvantages and exclusion. Female literacy levels in Kwale County is 47.4% and coupled with regressive cultural norms, it denies women the right to decision making.
Empowering women with civic education on the budgeting process was identified as a means to train women on how to analyze the budget documents against their gendered needs and engage with legislators to present their collective interests on impactful development projects that the County government can fund and implement. Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) was thus adopted as an avenue for inclusion of the voices of women, youths and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) through participatory budgeting.
 KNBS 2021. Economic Survey.
 SDG Kenya Forum 2010. Baseline Assessment on Gender Responsive Budgeting in Kenya.
 County Government of Kwale
Background History and Context
Taking gender issues into account has been recognized as central to closing the gender gap; this is seen through various policy pronouncements and commitments made by the government. Kenya has signed and ratified various legal instruments including: Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) of 1979, the Beijing Platform of Action of 1995, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) of 1994, the Maputo Protocol of 2003 and in the most recent 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) especially Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment adopted in 2015. Moreover, various laws and policies have been put in place to advance GRB, these include: Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Public Finance Management Act (2012), County Government Act 2012 and National gender and development policy (2019).
Despite all these, gender mainstreaming in the county and national government budgets remains elusive. Women voice and issues are underrepresented in both political and public debate; this undermines their participation in decision making platforms for the planning, formulation, implementation and monitoring of the use of public resources. Systemic barriers including low levels of education and literacy, patriarchy and retrogressive cultural beliefs continue to shrink the space for female participation in decision making platforms including budgeting processes in Kwale County. Gender blindness of the county budgets is evident from the inequities in resource allocation whereby despite Health, education and water sectors receiving the lion-share of the budget, the impact is yet to be felt among women and PWDs in Kwale County with poverty index and illiteracy levels remaining high. In financial year 2021/2022, allocations were as follows: Health (12.92%), Education (15.88%) and Water (21.91%). The agriculture sector received a meagre 5.29% despite being a main source of livelihood for residents. Skewed allocations implies that the decisions are neither informed by gender analysis nor are women meaningfully involved to present their ideas and proposals on the development projects that the county government ought to fund.
To address this, the Tupo.Tusikizwe (We are here. Listen to us) project was initiated with the aim of amplifying the voices of women and persons with disabilities to meaningfully participate in the budgeting process. The groups were trained on how to analyze the county budgets against the community gendered needs, identify gaps in resource allocation and developing lobby asks for presentation to the duty bearers in both the County Executive and Assembly.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Tupo.Tusikizwe project is implemented by the Coalition on Violence Against Women with funding support from VOICE. Key stakeholders include: the national government representatives from the department of gender, children services, youth and social protection; the County Government of Kwale both the Executive and Assembly officials; media; civil society organizations, women led groups and Disability Persons Organizations (DPOs).
Government role is to publicize the budget documents. The village and ward administrators are consulted widely to avail the budget documents to enable the community review them prior to submitting their proposals for consideration. Civil society organizations, women led groups and DPOs takes part in analyzing the budget documents, identifying gaps in resource allocation, jointly developing GRB lobby papers and presenting to both the County Executive and Assembly. Media role is to amplify the community voices by covering the events such as public participation forum, live interviews with the women champions and CSOs and seeking the views of the general public on whether budgets are equitably distributed.
GRB advocacy is citizen led and a widely consultative process whereby the women led groups, DPOs and project staff hold round table discussions every month to interrogate the county budgets and analyze them against the community gender needs. Selection of the meeting participants is undertaken at the community level with support from the local administration i.e chief and village administrator. Participants who have been trained on the county budgeting process and have been actively participating in the community dialogue sessions are prioritized during the selection process. The initiative is a two-year project funded by VOICE.Global.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The project is implemented in 10 wards across 3 sub counties in Kwale County. Selection of the participants was informed by a Knowledge Awareness and Practice (KAP) Survey conducted by a consultant in Kwale County seeking to understand the level of awareness on GRB among the community members and County Officials and application of GRB principles in resource allocation. The KAP Survey findings included: limited access to county budget documents; low awareness of GRB among the participants and county officials; limited engagement between the public and ward representatives; and limited participation of women in the budget making discussions. The Ward Administrators helped to identify village units that have been marginalized in accessing information and government services. This was followed by community entry meetings where 2 female champions were selected by the public and endorsed by the local administration. Criteria for female champions selection included: an individual who is committed to community work, no criminal record and can champion against women rights violations prevalent in her community. The role is voluntary; no stipends are offered to the female champions.
During the community dialogue sessions, participants’ selection is guided by ensuring representation of women, men, youth and PWDs from all the village units within the ward. 30 participants are invited during the sessions. A limited number is involved due to the COVID-19 regulations that require a social distancing and limiting the public gathering to contain the spread of the virus. The existing DPOs within the wards were reached out to with support from the County Coordinator, National Council for Persons with Disabilities who share contacts of the active disability groups and submitted the contact details of its members to ease their mobilization to attend the meetings. Participants are not given any stipend during the meeting.
The Community Development Officers (CDOs) are also invited during the dialogue sessions. CDOs are County Government staff stationed at the Wards administrator’s officer and are mandated to capacity build and empower community groups on socio economic development programs at the Ward level.
Methods and Tools Used
Participatory budgeting method is used to seek the views of the public on resource allocations as well as providing them with an opportunity to present their proposals to advocate for equity in resource allocation. During the meetings, the project staff (Program Officer and Program Associate) avail the budget documents to the participants. The staff alongside the women champions co-facilitate the discussions to unpack the budget documents content and present in a local language so that the participants get to understand and contribute to the discussions. Sectoral analysis of the proposed development project is made and key questions guiding the discussions as follows: Where is the project located? Who will benefit (men, women, youth, elderly or PWDs)? How will they benefit? What value will this project have to the beneficiaries.
Virtually, the engagements take place via whatsapp and twitter chats. The whatsapp platform membership comprises budget champions, selected civil society officials and women-led DPOs representatives who are identified via the County PWDs Network. Twitter chats involve engaging the community budget champions and inviting like-minded individuals and organizations across the country to discuss engendering the county and national budgets and presenting advocacy asks to the legislators
The discussions provide a platform where the public deliberate with leaders and get immediate feedback on the issues raised. Being a bottom-up model, this approach has proven successful where the leaders are able to further understand the specific needs of the community as opposed to making boardroom decisions which in most instances do not reflect the solutions to problems faced by the community. During the onset of the discussions, the Government Officials were reluctant in attending the meetings due to fear of being interrogated by the public on the development projects either not being implemented or failure to consider public proposals on community projects that need to be prioritized. The participatory budgeting method has enabled the leaders to appreciate that communities are not homogeneous and gender specific needs exist hence a need to have women and PWDs participate equitably in the budgeting process and ensuring their voices are heard.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The public engagement meetings are conducted either physically within the villages during community awareness raising sessions and virtually through whatsapp groups and twitter chats . Community awareness raising sessions are convened by the project staff with support from the village administrators and women budget champions. They raise awareness to the community members from across the Ward, communicate the meeting date and venue to the public while ensuring representation of men, women, youth and PWDs from the village units. Additionally, the Community Development Officers are brought on board to inform the participants on the devolved functions of the county government and how to identify and prioritize development projects in their Wards..
During the physical gatherings, the participants get an opportunity to present their questions, views and recommendations to the legislators. Diversity is adopted through inclusion of vulnerable groups especially widows, adolescent mothers, women with disabilities and the elderly who are normally excluded during the county public engagement forums.
The leaders use the opportunity to continuously sensitize the public on the available opportunities and services offered by the government. Open dialogue sessions between the community and leaders are also used to undertake social audits to the government funded development projects at the ward level. Social audits are carried out using a community score card to oversight the delivery of services by the government. The public with support from the community champions and project staff customize the score card to have at least five questions and a rating assigned to each questions. First, the score card is filled in with feedback from the public and later presented to the village and ward administrators detailing the concerns from the public and recommendations to improve service delivery. The process is carried out on quarterly basis.
Recommendations brought forth by the participants during the meetings are noted down by the community champions once the participants come to a consensus on the issues to be prioritized. With technical support from the project staff, the champions are guided on how to develop a memorandum to petition the government to adopt to informing resource allocation. The memorandum is presented physically as well as via email to the Department of Finance and Economic Planning, County Budget and Economic Forum, County Assembly and copies shared with the sub-county, ward and village administrators. Feedback is sought through courtesy calls to the legislators’ office where round table discussions are held and selected community budget champions share their proposals with the leaders and in turn, the legislators respond to the issues raised. Depending on the urgency of the issue, interface meetings are convened where community representatives, women budget champions and project staff meet the county officials to seek feedback on the issues raised.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Participation of the public in budget planning and formulation presents an opportunity for them to amplify their needs through proposals on how the government should allocate resources to enable women, youth and PWDs access basic services and productive resources to live healthy and productive lives.
Participatory budgeting has enhanced participation of women in budgetary processes and their agency has increased whereby they can confidently present GRB lobby papers to the legislators. Previously, participation of women, youth and PWDs was limited as the forums were usually male dominated with mostly the elites and allies to the leaders attending. Through the GRB training conducted for the community budget champions, Civil Society Organizations ( CSOs), and village administrators, the teams have an increased understanding on how to identify and prioritize development projects while taking into account the gendered needs of the community.
The community members now understand how to analyze the government budgets from a gender perspective. The team has continued to lobby the government to ensure equity in resource allocation across all sectors. For instance, in the bursary fund allocation, all wards are allocated a similar amount (Ksh. 20 million), the community members are advocating for allocation guided by parameters such as population size, education level of learners, poverty level index, etc. so that equity is realized and learns are supported to complete their education and acquire relevant technical skills. A success has been realized in 2 communities that successfully lobbied for funds allocation towards setting up and equipping maternity wing at Lunga Lunga laboratory in Mteza and a girls’ hostel at Galana vocational training center.
Through consultative forums with the legislators, the leaders have come to appreciate that GRB can play a huge role in enhancing service delivery to the citizens through enabling them access basic services and productive resources. Initially, the GRB concept was not understood by most legislators with the majority conceptualizing it as having extra financial resources to fund projects to support women, youth and PWDs. Currently, the leaders are more receptive to the community input with women, youth and PWDs getting invited to the public participation spaces to engage and share input on the budgeting planning, formulation and implementation.
The GRB initiative has enabled women become actively involved in community initiatives including having interest in leadership roles. For instance, a female champion from Mteza community stepped out and applied for an assistant chief post. She did not get the job but was later appointed as a community elder. This is a clear indication that the community has began to appreciate the role of women in leadership as opposed to confining them to household responsibilities.
Moreover, despite the project being implemented only in 10 village units, the ripple effects of the initiative are being seen in other wards whereby the administrators seek COVAW’s support for GRB training. However, due to financial constraints, the project is unable to scale up to all the 77 village units in Kwale County.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The initiative has worked well and has potential for replication in other counties. The success of this initiative has been anchored on the good collaboration between the government and the rights holders. Among the lessons which can be drawn from this initiative are as follows:
Inclusion of marginalized groups: this has ensured the voices of the excluded groups are heard and their input incorporated as the community champions for engendering government budgets. Amplifying the needs of adolescent girls and young mothers to access vocational training skills has culminated in the allocation of Ksh. 8 Million to construct a girls hostel in Galana vocational center. This will increase the enrolement and retention of adolescent girls and young women to facilitate them acquire knowledge and skills to enhance their employability.
Media engagement. The use of community radio stations such as Radio Kaya and Msenangu has helped in amplifying the key messages from the community. With the radio having a wide coverage, the members of the public are reached with the information and this serves as a way to raise awareness on the need for the public to be involved in decision making on resource allocation.
Working with the women budget champions as co-facilitators during the community dialogue sessions. Budget champions are identified by the community members and endorsed by the local administrations; this creates ownership of the process. Having homegrown community champions is key for sustainability of the initiative. Additionally, the champions being locals, support in leading discussions using indigenous language making it easy for the participants including the less educated to follow through the discussions and freely share their input.
Convening round table discussions between the budget champions and the legislators. This has helped the team receive timely and first-hand information on the status of the implementation of the public proposals on development projects. Further, the leaders get an opportunity to receive feedback about service delivery to the citizens and areas of improvement are identified and discussed jointly. This has further cemented the collaboration between the government and the citizens.
Challenges faced include:
High illiteracy level among women. Budget documents are developed in heavy technical jargon that makes it difficult to comprehend. With high illiteracy levels among women, this has posed a challenge in translating and simplifying the information. COVAW has developed a GRB pamphlet that uses a simplified language and has local illustrations which the public can relate with during the discussions. The pamphlet has been shared with community champions and county government officials.
Limited knowledge on GRB among the legislators. Majority of the legislators have the notion that the GRB principle entails setting aside extra resources to fund women projects. Limited understanding on GRB has led to slow uptake of the community proposals as most leaders do not comprehend the value add of engendering the government budgets. COVAW organized for a one-week training with the village administrators who were taken through the County Budget Cycle, spaces for engagement with the community members and how to guide the public to prioritize development projects based on gender needs.
A key lesson from this initiative is that gendering resource allocation is not a one-off activity. It requires consistency and commitment by both state and non-state actors by ensuring that concerted efforts are made to have the community needs reflected in resource allocation. Moreover, inclusion of all is vital so as to ensure the diverse input from the targeted groups is put into account.
Influencing practice and policies requires more time and resources. The initiative implementation period being two years is not sufficient. However, within the short period of implementation, some evidence has been generated to demonstrate that GRB has great potential to influence resource allocation by the government as well as enabling the public to hold the legislators to account for development commitments made. The GRB initiative is promising and presents a case for governments to be intentional in providing platforms for marginalized and excluded groups to be involved in decision making in order to equitably benefit from the public resources
Participatory budgeting (method) https://participedia.net/method/146
Community Score Card https://participedia.net/method/4983