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We want progress on gender equality, but we need greater transparency on the financing to get there

Sally Paxton, US Representative to Publish What You Fund

A lack of clear and consistent information on the funding and effectiveness of gender equality work makes it difficult to track progress on gender equality commitments in Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal. The Gender Financing Project has just published research mapping national and international funding flows in the three countries – and we found it remains difficult to paint a comprehensive picture of funding for gender equality, and to know if donors’ gender financing is making a difference.

Why does this matter?

All governments have committed to significantly increase investments to address gender inequality through Sustainable Development Goal 5. Without accessible, up-to-date and complete information, it is impossible to hold national governments and other funders to account on their gender equality commitments. We need this information to learn which initiatives make societies more equal and why, and to plan and implement future efforts. Without quality information on these funding flows it is extremely challenging to assess results and to work towards better development outcomes.

“Data plays a key role in helping to target populations, increasing scope of work, and understanding impact.” – Oxfam

Overall findings

We have assessed the availability and quality of public information, investigated data use, and tracked gender financing to determine how the governments of Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal and international funders can both be more transparent about their funding and better meet gender advocates’ needs.

The reports highlight commendable efforts by national governments and international donors to improve the transparency of gender equality funding.

We also found that key gender advocates in Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal were generally dissatisfied with the quality and/or quantity of the available information – and our research justified this view. Levels of satisfaction tended to differ between data users and data publishers.

“Maybe you can find data on some issues, but more variables are needed to make effective decisions. It does not end up being a complete landscape.” – Paz Joven, Guatemala-based NGO

National government support of gender equality

The governments of Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal have made important commitments to develop gender equality policies and make use of gender responsive budgeting (GRB). However, our research found inconsistencies in the ways these policies are being implemented at the national and local level, limited ability to trace how funding meets identified gender priorities, and varying issues in the quality and accessibility of the data that is published.

The data on government spending towards gender equality does not yet provide a comprehensive or complete picture. We have therefore offered each government three gender financing priorities to consider, focused on implementing and harmonizing GRB, improving data, and meeting gender advocates’ needs.

International funding for gender equality

Many of the international donors have applied the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC)’s gender equality policy marker to their funding, which makes it possible to provide an indication of their financial commitments to gender equality in Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal. However, our research showed that it is difficult to ascertain whether donors’ funding is aligned with the government’s gender funding priorities, who this assistance is supposed to benefit, or the impact it has actually had on gender equality. Moreover, we found that a lack of core, long-term funding prevents local gender advocates (particularly country-based NGOs, women’s rights organizations, and feminist movements) from contributing to the ongoing gender equality work.

We offer three priorities for international donors to improve the transparency of local gender financing, focused on supporting the capacity of local gender advocates, engaging with gender advocates on their data needs and supporting donor country offices.

National vs. international funding

Based on existing data, our research found that the amount of gender financing (for 2018) by national governments verses international donors varied significantly:

  • For Kenya, we traced $71m of national gender financing and $693m of international donors’ self-reported gender aid for Kenya, suggesting that in 2018 donors spent approximately nine times more on improving gender equality in Kenya than the Kenyan government.

  • For Nepal, we traced $8.9bn of national gender financing and $869m of international donors’ self-reported gender aid for Nepal, suggesting that in 2018 the Government of Nepal spent approximately ten times more on improving gender equality in Nepal than international donors.

  • For Guatemala, we traced $568m of national gender financing and $203m of international donors’ self-reported gender aid for Guatemala, suggesting that the Guatemalan government spent approximately three times more on improving gender equality in Guatemala than international donors.

While some of these figures present some stark differences, we know that there is certainly some double-counting and under-reporting within the data. This underscores the need for a more harmonized application of GRB and OECD gender markers, as well as greater disaggregation of domestic and international funding data.

What's next?

Based on these country studies, and our ongoing conversations with international donors, we will soon be producing global recommendations to different stakeholder groups for improved transparency and accountability in our Global Transparency Report, expected this summer. We will also be expanding our research to other gender funding flows, including humanitarian, philanthropic, and development finance institutions.

“Although a detailed plan was made on the needs of women during the pandemic … no resources were allocated to meet their needs as a priority group.” – UN Women

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated resource constraints and widened gender inequalities. Momentum is growing for a greater focus on gender equality in efforts to ‘build back better’ and movements such as the Generation Equality Forum provide an opportunity to put transparency at the heart of these efforts.

A greater understanding of data needs and improved data are crucial steps if we are to make best use of the existing funding, targeting those who need it most with interventions that make the biggest difference. We hope that our research provides a useful contribution to existing and new conversations about gender equality funding.

We will be discussing the findings and recommendations of our research at three webinars. A panel – with representatives from government, donor, and civil society organizations will consider the significance of gender equality funding and the next steps for transparency. Please join us!

Kenya: Wednesday 7th April (watch the recording on YouTube)

Guatemala: Wednesday 14th April (with simultaneous English-Spanish interpretation)

Nepal: Wednesday 21st April (with simultaneous English-Nepali interpretation)

The three reports are available in English. The Guatemala report is also available in Spanish and the Nepal report is available in Nepali.

The reports were produced by Friends of Publish What You Fund and Publish What You Fund, with support from Save the Children US and Plan International USA.


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