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Data Diary: Swechchha Dahal on Nepal’s gender agenda through different lenses

[See here for the Nepali version]

Through our gender financing project, we are engaging with different gender-related data to track spending towards gender equality. Our Data Diaries series asks development experts why gender-related data matters to their work, how they engage with this data, and what improvements they would like to see to make this data more transparent.

This third Data Diary is by Swechchha Dahal, consultant for the Gender Financing Project. In this blog, Swechchha shares her experiences, and those documented in the interviews for the Project, on the need for greater collaboration and engagement between government and civil society organizations (CSOs). She discusses how coordinated reporting mechanisms can provide better evidence for CSO advocacy and government accountability – and why this is important for gender equality.

Nepali collaboration for gender equality

In Nepal, my country, gender equality is a priority for government, CSOs and development partners. They all work to formulate policies, establish mechanisms and implement programmes to ensure justice and to meet the needs of women and girls.

Considering Nepal’s change from a monarchy to a federalist system, as well as interviewees’ observations of shrinking investment into the gender agenda, meaningful collaboration and coordination among stakeholders is critical. All actors acknowledge the importance of collaboration to achieve intended targets, but are gender equality efforts and collaboration happening as we wish? How is data on planning and allocations for gender equality shared? Trustworthiness of data shared publicly and the use of data for planning and programming is essential for evidence-based collaboration and coordination.

The impact of gender responsive budgets

Budget allocation and policies to promote gender equality are proxies for a country’s commitment to this agenda. Over the last decade, Nepal has made remarkable progress in this area: foreign assistance and national budget allocations are labelled with Gender Responsive Budget (GRB) markers, and the amount of GRB has increased significantly.

However, when discussing gender equality programs and plans at the local and federal level with government representatives, I learned that there are no mechanisms that review the impact and results of GRB. As such, the Government of Nepal’s GRB achievements are reported without proper assessment of its impact on the lives of women.

Reliable transparent data is needed to give a clear picture of where gender funding is going in Nepal

During interviews, CSO representatives raised serious concerns on lack of data that gives a clear picture of gender equality work and the type of gender work that is prioritized. One of the NGO representatives said that Nepal’s new Constitution 2015 has led to a shift in funding priorities, with government funding increasingly going towards gender-mainstreamed programmes rather than dedicated gender equality programmes. A women’s rights organization echoes that there has been a tremendous gap in dedicated programming on gender issues. As a result, thematic- and issue-based organizations struggle to survive and continue interventions and advocacy on women’s right issues. In addition, CSOs mention that in recent local level planning and budgeting, the government prefers infrastructure and hardware projects. Roads and buildings are visible to all, and justice and equality are intangible.

Holding the government accountable

Nepal has adopted many international and national gender equality commitments and policies. We now need the evidence to track progress on these commitments.

CSOs are advocating for government accountability and calling for the prioritization of access to services and meaningful participation of marginalized groups and women. In the experience of one women's rights professional, the government’s scope has shrunk further: it has limited their engagement on gender programmes and implementation, which weakens collaboration, limits knowledge sharing, and accountability to improve gender equality.

Historically, activists and CSOs have been key actors in mainstreaming gender equality work in Nepal. Thus, we cannot afford to overlook their role when trying to holistically address gender inequality issues and to create stronger accountability. In the current context, where the local government holds authority to prioritize and plan the issues of development, engagement of CSOs must not be limited to the Municipal Assembly. The information related to priorities and planning should be shared more publicly and accessibly.

The Constitution of Nepal’s right to equality must not be a justification to shift priority away from gender equality work. It is high time for CSOs and development partners to engage with all tiers of government to increase targeted investments for gender equality. Further improvements to reporting mechanisms will support evidence-based advocacy, and ultimately ensure the rights of the right holders.

The Gender Financing Project is in partnership with Publish What You Fund, and receives support from Plan International USA and Save the Children USA.


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