Introducing the Concept of Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting in Sierra Leone

IMG_6514Last month (June 2014) UN Women and the Organization for Inclusive Development (OFID) partnered with UNFPA and the Ministries of Local Government and Finance to deliver training on Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting (GRB) resources in Freetown. The Training of Trainers (ToT) brought together senior professionals responsible for institutional planning, budgeting and tracking of implementation of local and central government. The ToT aimed at improving the budget performance of 16 managers and directors from government’s ministries, departments and agencies.
UN Women Representative in Sierra Leone, Mary Okumu said that GRB was a tool for increasing government accountability in delivering gender equality and women’s empowerment goals through the global programme of Financing for Equality. She stressed the need to make the budget systems, processes and allocations more transparent and participatory as a measure towards greater accountability to citizens by demonstrating budget performance.
“Though we are economists and financial planners, we see the need of gaining skills and tools in GRB as an urgent task because our donors now insist that they want to see central and local budgets that are gender responsive,” said Adams Tommy, a senior economist from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. Tommy said that the staff in the Ministry had so badly wanted to learn about GRB and they initiated the training, mobilised the resources and invited UN Women to share its technical expertise in this priming programming area. David Lahai from OFID, underscored the importance of prioritising the needs of women, men, boys and girls in development plans and budgets, given that women are less represented in formal decision making bodies.
The participants were excited from the knowledge gained and they promised to immediately apply the tools in their respective duties. “We now know that through GRB, there is a way we can have a gender-friendly machinery that will enable us as women to directly participate in industrial farming,” said Legbei Amadu from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. One of the only three national experts on GRB in Sierra Leone and a Gender Specialist of UNFPA, Betty Alpha guided partakers to understand the conceptual and practical relevance of GRB to their day-to-day work when they engendered a district development plan. The participants will be delivering the course to district level planners and financial managers from the 19 local councils and across all devolved sectors.
In 2010, a good degree of GRB was introduced and implemented in Kenema District using the local government framework in Sierra Leone through the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD) Project, a joint project of UNCDF and UN Women. In 2008, UNFPA attempted to mainstream GRB into national budgeting through orientation workshops for some Parliamentarians and government bodies.
One of the key findings of post-war, the civil war ended in 2001, research was the exclusion of a large segment of the population from local governance and development. The 2004 Local Government Act and the Agenda for Prosperity make provision for equitable distribution of resources and women’s empowerment at all levels. The Act provides for each ward committee to have a maximum of 10 ward residents, and at least five of whom should be women resident in that ward and elected by the ward residents in a public meeting. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report recommends a minimum of 30% quota to either sex not only on the political platform but in resource distribution as well. It is hoped that this training will improve service delivery and increase access to livelihood resources for every citizen of Sierra Leone and subsequently achieve gender equality.