Are we redefining the obvious? Maybe let’s just use the tools we have!
It was not a particularly brilliant day, but the sun was out just enough to stir the gloom of a cloudy day in Sagana, Kenya. Oxfam in Kenya and the Institute for Public Finance-Kenya had invited about thirty women from across the country to attend a training on the budget-making process and gender-responsive budgeting. Chats are ready, the women are clustered in the room, pen and paper in hand, ready to devour the lessons on gender-responsive budgeting. As the lesson plan goes on, you see the women connect with the concept in a manner that only defined the peripheries of knowledge picking out key entry points, strategies and delivery methods. Interestingly, although the budget cycle follows through four stages all of which have an element of public participation, the budget cycle in Kenya is designed such that there is an overlap of the different stages for example formulation and audit, approval and implementation. This draws a fatigue from the public often eliciting an apathy that is both a function of a lack of clarity on the procedural matters but also an opportunity cost occasioned by public participation fora that require physical presence.
Without getting lost in the muck of procedural demands and legislative processes the essence of public participation is to allow citizens the opportunity to vocalise their concerns and set their priorities within the budget. On this day, once the budget stages and points for public participation were laid out in painful detail, the women went into the substance of their input to the budget process. They recognised the overly patriarchal nature of the hierarchy in Kenya's public finance management structure (the very justification for gender responsiveness). When women and youth are left out of budget prioritization, often the by-product is a gender blind budget that by omission and unintended action creates structural inequality within public financial allocation and expenditure. From about thirty-three, rural agricultural women trained on Gender Responsive Budgeting under the banner Agricultural Women Association of Kenya (AWAK), a network of ten hundreds has been strengthened across the country to advocate for gendered budgets. This knowledge is intrinsic to the women and often what they need is a break from norm, clarity on the processes and avenues to articulate their priorities.
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