Gender-Responsive Public Policy at the Municipal Level: Municipal Officials in Athens & Karditsa
Date Posted: Wednesday 4th January 2023
This blog is a reflection of the joint work between ActionAid (Hellas) and the Women’s Budget Group (UK). It falls under the WBG’s Global Partnerships and Learning programme, in which WBG collaborates with civil society organisations around the world to support them in engaging effectively in dialogue with their governments to develop policies and allocate resources in ways that improve the lives of women, with an emphasis on the most marginalised women.
I first read the term gender-budgeting a few years ago, reading a report on the European gender equality index, where sadly Greece was in the last place. It is now 2021 and my country is still in the same place. My job as the Gender Manager for ActionAid is to battle exactly that by designing programs that empower women and advance gender equality and gender mainstreaming is key to this mission.
I then started working on a pilot program to introduce gender-budgeting to the municipality of Athens, the biggest city in Greece and Karditsa, a small town in Central Greece and mark differences in the implementation. The program uses participatory methodologies to engage and train local women, public servants and members of the municipal council, building synergies that highlight and promote women’s needs and priorities and ensure that they will be reflected in the municipal budget.
One of the biggest challenges we faced early on was the awareness gap, especially on the municipal level. We had discussions with well-intended but burned-out public workers who were either too busy or too frustrated to work with us on this program. Most importantly, they couldn’t quite grasp what was gender-budgeting, why it matters so much and what they could do in their daily work life to help promote it. I now understand they needed evidence of some sort that would make them believe that gender-budgeting is indeed achievable. But I didn’t know anyone in Greece who had the experience to give them the inspiration they needed.
Luckily enough, I met the Women’s Budget Group in a training on gender parity at work organized by the British Embassy in Athens. I knew immediately that they could support us in training the municipality representatives, drawing on their experience in the UK. They could inspire them with their story but also give them concrete tools to introduce gender responsiveness in the budgeting process. We organized the first training a few weeks later where we marked an 80% raise in awareness and expertise of all participants, and we even had the manager of the Athens Women’s Counseling Center taking a public pledge to working more on gender responsiveness. The training helped us foster relationships with the municipality workers which in result strengthens their interface with the women in the local communities which hopefully will lead in better gender responsiveness of public services.
We have many activities planned for the future and I am hopeful that not only will Greece mark a better place in the gender equality index in the years to come but also that ActionAid together with WBG will have contributed towards this.
Following up to the first training ActionAid organized with Women’s Budget Group to raise awareness of public servants on gender budgeting, we completed the series of events with another training specifically on gender responsive public services. The Women’s Budget Group trainers did an amazing job helping participants understand the links between gender responsive budgeting and public services, gender rights and participatory governance.
Both training courses offered a learning journey for all participants, full of self-discovery, development and change of perspective. Many of them were really surprised seeing in practice how helpful and powerful gender budgeting can be in so many aspects of social and economic life. The training was valuable for ActionAid’s work as we now have a pool of aware and mobilized public servants and I am excited for the path that has been unfolded ahead for our programs.