Data

General Issues
Identity & Diversity
Economics
Planning & Development
Specific Topics
Budget - Local
Gender Equality & Equity
Gender Identity
Location
George Town
Penang
Malaysia
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Files
https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.participedia.xyz/872aa592-5d59-428b-a6e3-800870d1d007_IOPD8thAward2.pdf
Links
http://grpb.pwdc.org.my/
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Deliver goods & services
Approach
Co-governance
Citizenship building
Co-production in form of partnership and/or contract with government and/or public bodies
Spectrum of Public Participation
Collaborate
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Women
Low-Income Earners
General Types of Methods
Public budgeting
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
Collaborative approaches
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Focus Group
Participatory Budgeting
Survey
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Negotiation & Bargaining
Ask & Answer Questions
Information & Learning Resources
Not Relevant to this Type of Initiative
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
New Media
Traditional Media
Type of Organizer/Manager
Non-Governmental Organization
Government-Owned Corporation
Local Government
Funder
Penang State Government
Type of Funder
Regional Government
Local Government
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in public policy
Changes in civic capacities
Implementers of Change
Elected Public Officials
Lay Public
Formal Evaluation
Yes

CASE

Gender Responsive and Participatory Budgeting in Penang, Malaysia

First Submitted By alainawoo

Most Recent Changes By Alanna Scott

General Issues
Identity & Diversity
Economics
Planning & Development
Specific Topics
Budget - Local
Gender Equality & Equity
Gender Identity
Location
George Town
Penang
Malaysia
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Files
https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.participedia.xyz/872aa592-5d59-428b-a6e3-800870d1d007_IOPD8thAward2.pdf
Links
http://grpb.pwdc.org.my/
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Deliver goods & services
Approach
Co-governance
Citizenship building
Co-production in form of partnership and/or contract with government and/or public bodies
Spectrum of Public Participation
Collaborate
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Women
Low-Income Earners
General Types of Methods
Public budgeting
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
Collaborative approaches
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Focus Group
Participatory Budgeting
Survey
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Negotiation & Bargaining
Ask & Answer Questions
Information & Learning Resources
Not Relevant to this Type of Initiative
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
New Media
Traditional Media
Type of Organizer/Manager
Non-Governmental Organization
Government-Owned Corporation
Local Government
Funder
Penang State Government
Type of Funder
Regional Government
Local Government
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in public policy
Changes in civic capacities
Implementers of Change
Elected Public Officials
Lay Public
Formal Evaluation
Yes

Through local councils and nonprofits, organizers developed an inclusive, gender-responsive participatory budgeting project that led to concrete changes in two local housing projects.

Problems and Purpose

Gender equality and social justice began to emerge as a priority for citizens and NGOs in Penang, Malaysia in the early 2000s. Many felt that gender responsive budgeting was crucial to equality, but individuals and groups had trouble gaining enough momentum to making lasting impacts.[1] 

The support in Penang for gender responsive budgeting as a solution for inequality was based on the notion that that economic and social government priorities are often determined by budgeting. A gender responsive budget is one that that contributes to gender equality and women’s empowerment through the allocation of funds.[2] Ideally, budgeting is based on an analysis of women’s issues and the policies and programs that could solve these issues. Often, gender responsive budgets acknowledge issues of equal pay, childcare, support for low wage workers and maternity leave. Gender responsive budgets are built on the research backed premise that equitable societies and economies will be better off long term. 

In 2008, Penang received a new state government. The government showed a willingness to financially support the calls for social justice and women’s empowerment in ways that the previous government had not. In an effort organized by various women advocates and NGOs such as Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and Good Governance and Gender Equality Society (3Gs), the state government formed the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) in 2011. PWDC declared a mission “to mainstream gender into the policies and programs of all sectors and strive for gender equality and social justice”, a vision that was consistent with the new state government’s objective to turn Penang into “a modern and international city.” According to its website, PWDC has three objectives: 

  1. "To support the capacities of state and local governments to integrate gender perspectives into policies, programmes and practices.
  2. To strengthen women’s leadership and political participation.
  3. To enhance women’s participation in economic life." [3]

The gender responsive budgeting detailed in this entry was PWDC’s pilot project. Through two local councils, Majilis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) and Majilis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP), PWDC developed an inclusive participatory budgeting project that led to concrete changes in two local housing projects in Penang. These projects were directly a result of women’s perspectives and gender responsive policy considerations.

Background History and Context

In 2008, a new stated government formed in Penang, Malaysia. This new state government supported gender equality and social justice in a way that had not previously existed. This aligned with the government’s larger mission to transform Penang into “a modern and international city”.

A 2012 speech by the Chief Minister of Penang at the opening of the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) describes the formation of the 3Gs community NGO and provides great insight into how gender equality and social justice arrived at the forefront of the new government’s agenda.[4] Though the new government pledged to support women’s issues, the transitional months were tumultuous on this front as the Women’s Development Department on the national level “withdrew its financial and personnel support from the [new] State government within a matter of months”. However, following this withdrawal, there were years of “political transformation, fortuitous circumstances and above all, sheer hard work” in Penang. Through an advisory group of women and the support of the new state government, a new community NGO called the Good Governance and Gender Equality Society (3Gs) was created. This NGO hosted a Gender Mainstreaming Conference in 2010, where participants urged “the State Government to adopt the recommendations of its Declaration on Gender Equality in order to achieve gender justice in Penang, including the implementation of gender responsive budgeting”. Following this conference, informal and formal lobbying, and an obvious need for “state machinery”, the state government allocated RM1.5 million to gender equality projects. Thus, the PWDC was formed and the gender responsive and participatory budgeting projects began. 

The chief minister describes the PWDC it as “a body set up and fully funded by the Penang State Government under the structure of a private non-profit company” and “equivalent of the Women Ministry at Penang state level”. The Chief Minister also notes it as “the first of its kind in [Penang’s] 55 years since independence”. 

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The existing municipal councils, Majilis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) and Majilis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP), pledged their support by allocating three annual payments of RM200,000 (USD$60,000) to finance the project.

The state government had previously allocated RM1.5 million to the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) which funded the projects described on this page as its pilot projects. It can be assumed that the RM200,000 used to fund these projects came from the initial RM1.5 million allocation. [5]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The project report does not specify a process for participant selection. Other participatory budgeting projects have used random sampling to select participants along dimensions of age, region, gender and class.  

In line with this, the project report did adopt a tagline of “different people, different needs” in an attempt to be “as socially inclusive as possible and work with a for all gender groups”. This implies a participant group of all ages and genders. [6]

Methods and Tools Used

Participatory budgeting initiatives are built entirely on the premise of public deliberation. The Penang initiative was no different, and also involved some gender responsive budgeting techniques. 

A gender responsive budget is one that that contributes to gender equality and women’s empowerment through the allocation of funds. Ideally, budgeting is based on an analysis of women’s issues and the policies and programs that could solve these issues. Often, gender responsive budgets acknowledge issues of equal pay, childcare, support for low wage workers and maternity leave. Gender responsive budgets are built on the research backed premise that equitable societies and economies will be better off long term. 

The project was intended to be as socially inclusive and accessible as possible. This meant hosting it at local low income housing sites, and communicating through local municipal councils. 

Another important note is that the public interaction methodology was specifically intended to by a ‘bottom-up’ approach that allowed for all voices to be heard. Rather than giving all decision making power to authorities, which was traditionally how things were done, the project was “an exercise in people’s power”. [8]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

The project employed the two existing municipal councils to communicate its message and achieve its goals. The idea was that, by mainstreaming gender responsive budgeting in the local councils, the practice would eventually reach the state government level. These two councils, Majilis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) and Majilis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP), provided most of the funding and were the direct service providers. In order to emphasize inclusiveness and intent to give a voice to those often unheard, the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) elected to used two low cost housing flats, PPR Jalan Sugai and PPR Ampangan, as project sites to pilot the GRB effort. 

Following these decisions on messaging and location, PWDC developed “a systematic process and methodology involving four phases of action”. These phases are as follows:

“Phase 1 : Survey : demographic survey of the residents generating baseline information such as age, occupation, gender etc.

Phase 2: Focus Group Discussions: a dialogue platform for residents to express their needs, preferences and key concerns.

Phase 3: Prioritisation of needs and budget allocation: a democratic avenue for residents to vote on their priorities giving credence that votes do count and that the people’s voices are heard and attended to.

Phase 4: Planning presentation and negotiation for the implementation of project(s): the phase where in depth discussion and planning with stakeholders is carried out to ensure the voted needs that were ranked the highest priorities received attention.” [7]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The report notes that “concrete results materialized from the People’s Housing Project residents participation” in the four phases listed in the methods sections. 

Specific findings from the two housing project sites, PPR Ampangan and PPR Jalan Sungai are as follows: 

  1. “At the PPR Ampangan the residents had voted for the upgrading of their recreational park and they were consulted and involved in the designing and planning of the park and this project was duly completed after negotiations for budget approval from MPSP.”
  2. “At the PPR Jalan Sungai where the highest votes had gone to building maintenance, it resulted in the cleaning contract being awarded to the Residents Association Committee and NOT to external contractors as was often the norm, thereby creating employment opportunities for some residents. More importantly it meant that the residents (although tenants) were taking responsibility and ownership of the general cleanliness of their own physical surroundings through the community cleaning contract.” 

The project notes these findings as movement away from ‘top down’ decision making. This was brand new for most of the residents, and gave power to people in a way that had not existed previously. The report discusses these two outcomes as “an exercise in people’s power.” [9]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

"The overall plan [was] to institutionalize Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) in the local councils, eventually progressing to similar practice at the state government level”. According to the project report, “this proved to be a very challenging task as the councils have for years carried out line budgeting of their revenue and expenses the conventional way with no special attention or reference to gender [or] people’s participation.”

In general there were two specific findings, from each of the project sites, where concrete steps were taken and the project inspired lasting influences and outcomes. As stated in the previous section, the findings were as follows:

Specific findings from the two housing project sites, PPR Ampangan and PPR Jalan Sungai are as follows: 

  1. “At the PPR Ampangan the residents had voted for the upgrading of their recreational park and they were consulted and involved in the designing and planning of the park and this project was duly completed after negotiations for budget approval from MPSP.”
  2. “At the PPR Jalan Sungai where the highest votes had gone to building maintenance, it resulted in the cleaning contract being awarded to the Residents Association Committee and NOT to external contractors as was often the norm, thereby creating employment opportunities for some residents. More importantly it meant that the residents (although tenants) were taking responsibility and ownership of the general cleanliness of their own physical surroundings through the community cleaning contract.” 

Given this success, it was a pilot project that was limited in scope. The “bottom up” and “people’s voices” focus will be significantly more powerful if it can be expanded past this pilot project. As the report concludes, “if this methodology may be replicated in other housing estates or residential areas” then “the state [will] have come a long way in returning power back to the people”. The Penang Women’s Development Corporation is currently very active, leading events and projects to achieve their mission.

More generally speaking, gender responsive and participatory budgeting processes have proved fairly successful around the world. As the community members in Penang saw an upgraded park, better living facilities and employment opportunities for residents, others projects cite similar results such as the building of more schools and community resources. Similarly, government authorities have begun to see the advantages of planning with the people they govern as they are more quickly alerted to issues and priorities in the the community. These issues and priorities typically arise anyway, so co-planning and participatory budgeting simply addresses them earlier. [10]

See Also

Participatory Budgeting (method)

References

[1]"Gender Responsive and Participatory Budgeting - Penang, Malaysia" VIII Distinction for Best Practices in Citizens' Participation,(2014): 38-39. International Observatory on Participatory Democracy Report. https://www.oidp.net/docs/repo/doc15.pdf

[2] https://unwomen.org.au/our-work/focus-areas/what-is-gender-responsive-budgeting/

[3] "Gender Responsive and Participatory Budgeting - Penang, Malaysia" VIII Distinction for Best Practices in Citizens' Participation,(2014): 38-39. International Observatory on Participatory Democracy Report. https://www.oidp.net/docs/repo/doc15.pdf

[4] https://www.penang.gov.my/en/dmedia/2221-the-launching-new-office-of-penang-womens-development-corporation-pwdc-sdn-bhd 

[5] "Gender Responsive and Participatory Budgeting - Penang, Malaysia" VIII Distinction for Best Practices in Citizens' Participation,(2014): 38-39. International Observatory on Participatory Democracy Report. https://www.oidp.net/docs/repo/doc15.pdf

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

External Links

http://grpb.pwdc.org.my/

Notes

Lead image: Penang Women's Development Corporation https://goo.gl/3jD6Av