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Fariya Mohiuddin
Senior Program Officer for Tax Equity 




IBP’s growing work on gender equality 

Addressing gender equality is important year-round, but Women’s History Month provides us the space to pause and reflect on what more we can do to uplift women’s voices and expertise, especially in the public finance space where they are so woefully underrepresented. 

As economies around the world address post-COVID recovery, women's leadership will be more critical than ever to creating more equitable and fair societies. There is plenty of evidence showing that the inclusion of women in leadership contributes to more inclusive solutions and better outcomes.

Despite this, women continue to be significantly underrepresented in public finance institutions. Only 11 percent of countries have finance portfolios held by women and less than a third of all heads of national audit offices are women. It is imperative that these institutions be deliberately reconstructed and reformed to be inclusive and responsive to the unique priorities of women and girls. 

But how do we restructure institutions that have historically underestimated and underinvested in women’s leadership? To address this, we joined up with the INTOSAI Development Initiative and UN Women to hold a workshop series, “Increasing Women’s Leadership in Public Finance,” which convened women leaders from civil society, ministries of finance and supreme audit institutions. Participants identified barriers and recommendations, including redesigning societal norms to advance gender equality; facilitating meaningful inclusion of women in institutional reform; and bolstering women’s decision-making power through advancement and leadership. The list of recommended actions is long and will require absolute buy-in, not just tokenism, from all stakeholders in public finance institutions. But a commitment to gender equality is an integral part of effective public finance systems that can respond to different needs in society. 

This is just the beginning of these critical conversations. During the recent United Nations Commission on the Status of Women gathering, we co-hosted a high-level side event to elevate and unpack these issues; we recently published an editorial by our board member Malado Kaba in The Hill on the importance of female leadership; and we will soon release a series of analyses on the nexus between gender and climate financing (see blog below). IBP has also integrated a gender lens into much of our work throughout the year, including in our upcoming COVID accountability study and in our SPARK initiatives where women-led mass movements are leading the charge for more inclusive budget processes in Nigeria and elsewhere. We are committed to upholding women’s leadership and intersectional gender equity in our work because we know societies are better off when all genders are at the table. 

In this section, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we talked with Rongai Leakwara, a budget champion from one of the smallest and marginalized ethnic minority communities in Kenya, known as the Ilchamus community. 

Learn more about Rongai's advocacy work here.

  • On March 17, as part of the annual gathering of the Commission on Status of WomenUN Women, the INTOSAI Development Initiative and IBP co-hosted a virtual side event focused on the barriers women confront in public finance institutions and the steps that need to be taken to enable greater gender parity in the leadership of these institutions. More than 350 attendees joined the lively discussion. 

    IBP Board member and former Minister of Economy and Finance in Guinea Malado Kaba moderated the event alongside speakers Marta Acosta Zúñiga, Auditor General, Costa Rica; Zineb Bouba, Head of the Unit, Economic and financial reporting and gender budgeting, Ministry of Economy, Finance and Administrative Reform, Kingdom of Morocco; Beena Pallical, General Secretary, Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan, India; and Rehemah Namutebi, Director General of National Budget, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda. This event is part of the “Increasing Women’s Leadership in Public Finance,” series we started in 2020 with civil society, finance ministries and supreme audit institutions. A recording of the event is available here (click settings for subtitles in English, Spanish or French). 
  • On March 25, IBP and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)’s Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government (DPIDG) co-hosted “How can external audits promote budget credibility? Leveraging the role of supreme audit institutions.” More than 330 people joined to hear from officials of national audit offices and to reflect on ways to strengthen their role in promoting credible government spending (well summarized in a new brief below).

    Moderated by IBP’s Claire Schouten, speakers included: Vivek Ramkumar, IBP’s Senior Director of Policy; Aránzazu Guillán Montero, Senior governance and public administration officer, DPIDG, UNDESA; Dr. Agus Joko Pramono, Vice Chairman of the Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia; Ms. Keto Nyapendi Kayemba, Assistant Auditor General of Uganda; Lasha Kelikhashvili, Head of the State Budget Analysis Division, State Audit Office, Democratic Republic of Georgia; Cora Lea A. Dela Cruz, Assistant Commissioner, Commission on Audit, Republic of the Philippines; and Gail Lue Lim, Chief Economist and Deputy Auditor General, Auditor General’s Department of Jamaica. A recording of the event is available here

  • In an op-ed for The Hill, IBP Board member and former Minister of Economy and Finance in Guinea, Malado Kaba, and the Director General of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions Development Initiative, Einar Gørrissen, argue that while examples of successful female leadership abound, they are still acutely underrepresented in public finance institutions and that we are all are better served when we make space for women’s leadership. 

  • IBP Board member Faith Mwangi-Powell was included in CNN’s list of “Women leaders you should know and the causes they champion” for her work with her organization, Girls Not Brides, aimed at keeping girls in school and out of early marriage.  

  • Abraham Rugo, IBP’s Kenya Country Manager was quoted in The Star commenting on the lack of public input in the 2021-22 country budget process which fails to fully follow the constitutional provisions on budget-making. 

  • South Africa’s Maverick Citizen referenced IBP and The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ guidance on what constitutes compliance with budgeting in response to the Finance Minister’s budget speech that many have argued highlighted the gap between the constitutional vision for human rights and the country’s troubled financial management and economic performance. 

  • In partnership with Grupo de Financiamiento Climático para América Latina y el Caribe; ActionAid Bangladesh; the International Institute for Environment and Development; and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, IBP is working on a forthcoming study on the intersection of gender inequality and climate change in public finance. A preview of the work is available here.
  • A new brief by our colleague and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs collaborator, Aránzazu Guillán Montero, Upholding commitments: How supreme audit institutions can strengthen budget credibility through external audits, reviews 80 audit reports from 20 countries to highlight the value of independent external audits to the credibility of government budgets. 
  • IBP South Africa's Asivikelane initiative ("let us protect each other" in Zulu) gives voice to informal settlement residents who are faced with severe basic service shortages during the COVID-19 crisis and shares the challenges with government actors to affect change. Learn more about how Asivikelane has impacted these residents' lives.
  • Call for papers: The Institute of Public Finance and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, supported by the Croatian Science Foundation are organizing a research and policy conference in October 2021: “Does fiscal openness pay off? The political and socio-economic effects of transparency, participation and accountability.” The organizing committee is looking for relevant abstracts or papers by May 15, 2021. More information on the conference and how to submit a paper is available here.  

  • The Afrifem Macroeconomic Collective, or NAWI, has launched the NAWI Africa portal, offering space for African women’s thought leadership on the economy. 

  • The Overseas Development Initiative has launched a new working paper series on public finance and service delivery and the first publication in the new series has been published: Public finance and service delivery: What’s new, what’s missing, what’s next?  Outside contributors are welcome. See the call for proposals and papers

  • The Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency presented the commissioned work of Richard Murphy and Andrew Baker on Making Tax Work: A framework for enhancing tax transparency in a webinar earlier this week. A recording of the webinar is available here

  • The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is looking to fill four Civil Society seats on its Steering Committee. Visit the OGP website for additional information regarding the criteria, mandate and selection process. The deadline to apply has been extended to April 9, 2021. 

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