Malawi: Stakeholders Validate Gender-Responsive Budgeting Guidelines for Local Councils

3 August 2021

Stakeholders have finally validated the long awaited gender-responsive budgeting guidelines for local councils in Malawi, effectively paving the way for the Ministry of Finance to trigger a process for their operationalization.

The guidelines will ensure that councils implement budgets and interventions that are gender-responsive in order to equally and holistically address all the basic needs of men, women, boys, girls and other segments of the society.

The validation took place at Mponela during a meeting of top representatives from Malawi Local Government Association (MALGA), councils, National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) and ministries of Local Government and Finance.

The representatives validated the guidelines after they were developed through a consultative process, which involved all relevant stakeholders.

NLGFC is reportedly supposed to operationalize the guidelines with the Ministry of Finance providing direction on how the operationalization should be carried out.

The development of the guidelines, which councils did not have all along, is one of the components of a MK74 million project, which MALGA - an umbrella body of all local governments in Malawi - has been implementing over the past five months with support from UN Women under the Spotlight Initiative, a partnership between UN and European Union.

MALGA executive director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, hailed the validation of the guidelines, describing it a step towards ensuring that councils use budgets in a gender-responsive way.

"As an umbrella body, we are very excited considering that the timeframe for the project was too short. This is a milestone. The expectation is that we will now present the guidelines to the Ministry of Finance, which is supposed to trigger the process of operationalization. The ministry will then inform NLGFC how to operationalize the guidelines," said Mkandawire.

Another expectation, added Mkandawire, is that, once the guidelines are operationalized soon, the annual budgets for local governments should be able to equally address all the minimum needs of all segments of the populations at local level.

"Gender-responsive budgeting does not mean allocating more resources to women issues only. It actually means addressing all issues affecting all segments of the society. Men, women, boys and girls have to be assisted equally. We expect that everyone will benefit equally from the little resources that the councils administer at the local level which will lead to a just and fair society which is a precursor for a healthy society," he said.

In his remarks, Deputy Director of Local Government Services in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Douglas Mkweta, said gender-responsive budgeting will ensure that local authorities budgets are implemented with specific indicators showing if there is any progress in terms of reduction of the challenges faced by specific genders.

"If we just implement budgets and interventions without knowing exactly what we are addressing among genders, we are losing out. For instance, bridges, schools and boreholes are addressing people's problems but this is without the understanding on how these interventions are actually addressing the gender disparities. There are no indicators. We are unable to account for the challenges we are addressing," said Mkweta.

He added that gender-responsive budgeting will help the councils in revenue and resource mobilization for they will be able to know which gender is contributing more to their budgets.

He said this will enable the councils to understand how exactly they can support each gender.

Budget analyst at NLGFC, Jonathan Banda, also commended the validation of the guidelines, saying they are just waiting for the Ministry of Finance to give them direction on how to operationalize the guidelines.

He added that NLGFC will require all forms of support from various stakeholders in order to operationalize the guidelines successfully, which, he said, will lead to improvement in gender responsive budgeting and reporting tools in councils.

"The budgeting and reporting that reflect gender responsive aspects will avail more information to various stakeholders so that they would be able to provide their support leading to fulfilment of their wishes," Banda said.

Through the UN Women and Spotlight Initiative Project, MALGA also strengthened the Women Councilors Caucus to reposition it as a vehicle for promoting gender equality and women and girls' rights.

The project also helped Mmbelwa and Ntchisi district councils to develop pilot by-laws for addressing early marriages, sexual violence and other gender based violence against women and girls.

The by-laws, according to Mkandawire, are about to be submitted to the Ministry of Local Government for approval and then later to the Ministry of Justice to be vetted so that they are consistent with the national legal frameworks.

He said the by-laws, once approved and vetted by the line ministries, will later be applied across all local authorities in Malawi.

"This will contribute to a healthy environment for women and girls, more especially in the promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights for girls," Mkandawire said.

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