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Women’s Budget Groups in Glasgow

Reflections of each of the Women’s Budget Groups, as well as an overview of what was highlighted in our cross-nation state of play discussions.

Last month, the four Women’s Budget Groups (WBGs) from Wales, Scotland, UK and Northern Ireland travelled to Glasgow Caledonian University to participate in a two-day workshop on gender budgeting. Organised by Dr Angela O’Hagan, of the Scottish Women’s Budget Group and Glasgow Caledonian University, the workshop represented the first opportunity for all of the Women’s Budget Groups to meet in person and share updates on the current state of play within our respective nations. As well as advancing our collective gender budgeting agenda, we also discussed how to further bolster our cross-nation working, including expanding onto a 5-Nation basis by incorporating colleagues from the Republic of Ireland.  Through fruitful and stimulating conversations, we were able to identify commonalities and nation-specific differences in the gender budgeting context, as well as develop a number of exciting plans for our upcoming collective endeavours.

Read below for the reflections of each of the Women’s Budget Groups, as well as an overview of what was highlighted in our cross-nation state of play discussions.

Wales Women’s Budget Group (WWBG)

It was a privilege to attend last month’s gender budgeting workshop in Glasgow. We were delighted to finally meet our sister organisations in-person and to participate in such interesting and productive conversations with colleagues and esteemed academics. The workshop’s state of play conversations proved particularly valuable, highlighting common problems and nation-specific differences with regards to embedding gender budgeting in budgetary processes, within the wider political context of a continuing cost of living and worsening housing crisis across the UK. From a Wales perspective, the WWBG was able to highlight that despite a comparatively stable political context and a continued commitment to gender budgeting within the Welsh Government’s Budget Improvement Plan and individual governmental departments, significant challenges remain. For example, a lack of capacity across Welsh Government and the public sector in Wales represents a crucial barrier to embedding gender budgeting, as does the complex legislative and regulatory landscape of Wales, which makes it harder to use certain levers to drive changes in behaviour. As the WWBG we will continue to work to address these issues and very much look forward to realising the exciting cross-nation plans developed at the Glasgow workshop.

UK Women’s Budget Group (UKWBG)

Meeting with colleagues from the four nations plus the Republic of Ireland was an energising and inspiring experience despite the challenges we each face. The political instability in Westminster politics in recent years has made it harder to hold the Government to account for the lack of pre- and post-budget scrutiny. While we have had some significant policy successes, such as the expansion of the Conservative’s childcare offer in Spring Budget earlier this year (which requires significantly more funding than currently budgeted for), there remains a stark lack of engagement from the Treasury on the impact of budgetary decisions on gender equality and little regard paid the Public Sector Equality Duty. This was highlighted by the engagement our colleagues are able to have with the budgetary processes particularly in Scotland and Wales which, while far from perfect, put the lack of transparency of the UK Government to shame.

Scottish Women’s Budget Group (SWBG)

We were delighted to welcome all the Women’s Budget Groups to Glasgow. It was great to meet in-person after solely working online together and build on these relationships over the 2 days. We engaged, participated, and actively listened to one another as we spoke about each nation’s current progresses and challenges with gender budgeting. From the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, we discussed existing challenges in the political changes that occurred earlier in the year. However, our context remains comparatively stable with elements of progress, such as positive ministerial meetings, compared to other nations. We were also able to highlight our work with local authorities, an area of work that may be expanding for other WBGs in the future too. It was a very useful exercise to discuss with each other how we address and tackle common barriers we all face, especially around political will and receptiveness. These workshops created more cohesion amongst the 4 nations and a greater sense of togetherness, making sure we support one another in the overall goal of embedding gender budgeting in budgetary processes.

Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group (NIWBG)

After nearly three years of the 4-Nations project, it was an incredible experience to bring together the Coordinators and a few members of each of the WBGs in Glasgow to discuss how we can promote gender budgeting across the 5 Nations. While the current political and budget crises in Northern Ireland have brought serious barriers to furthering gender economic equality, gaining insights into the experiences of Scotland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland is crucial to our ability to apply examples of best practice and circumnavigate shared struggles. The main focus of the two-day meeting were the discussions around greater joined-up working across the 5 Nations through both academic and civil society channels. This would be a great asset to the NIWBG, as many decision-makers in Northern Ireland look to neighbouring jurisdictions for guidance and/or policy ideas. It is important that the NIWBG uses the insights provided through the 5 Nations connections to advocate and advise decision-makers in Northern Ireland, and guide them in the best direction for gender budgeting implementation.

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