In the words of Martha Wambui: "Who will articulate the unique needs of women if they are not at the decision-making table?"
Martha Wambui is an internal auditor at the Laikipia County Assembly. Martha is among the county staff responsible for supporting the third generation of the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP III) – a strategy prepared by all of Kenya’s county governments to guide development programmes over a five-year period. Martha is one of 55 gender champions trained by UN Women's partner, the Society of Clerks at the Table (SOCATT). The support by UN Women is part of the Joint Devolution Programme supported by Sweden, Finland, and Italy and implemented by UN Women, UNICEF, and UNDP.
Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) may sound like jargon. Still, if I were to explain this to a young girl or an elderly woman, I would tell them that this is the process of planning by the county assemblies to ensure the resources work for everyone: for women and men, girls and boys, the elderly, and persons living with disabilities. Developing a gender responsive budget should also be inclusive, ensuring women and men contribute to the process so that the unique needs of all people are considered and no one is left behind.
From where I stand, for example, a well-developed and executed water programme would greatly benefit all people of Laikipia County.
We continue to experience poor and erratic rainfall and recurring droughts in our county. The water shortage affects all people. At the household level, women and girls walk long distances in search of water for domestic use; the elderly, too, are disproportionately affected. For the herders, searching for water and pasture for their livestock has sometimes led to violent clashes among other herder communities, ranchers, and farmers. A well-executed water programme ensures everyone in the community is catered for, would mitigate conflict and improve the lives of the people of Laikipia.
In some areas of Laikipia, the community, especially women, sometimes walk more than 10km in search of water. For the women, this time could be used to participate in income-generating activities. For the children, this is time could be used to focus on their studies. Seeing the picture begins at the budgeting phase, and only a gender-responsive budget can bring about this change.
I can confidently articulate gender-responsive budgeting this way and guide MCAs and their respective committees on GRB because, for the past five years, I have been a gender champion in my county assembly.
I have actively supported county planning processes to ensure we adequately capture gender concerns and priorities representing the diversity of the people of Laikipia County. My contribution has been by putting into practice all the knowledge on gender mainstreaming I have gained from training by SOCATT, supported by UN Women, to enhance technical skills of county staff on gender- mainstreaming.
I have endeavoured to support any process that steers the Assembly towards being a more gender responsive institution. This includes guiding honourable members to use gender-sensitive language as they debate in plenary. For example, by addressing the speaker as 'Honourable Speaker' and not 'Mr. Speaker Sir’, because there are times the speaker has been a woman; or ensuring when we write minutes, they capture the 'chairperson' and not 'chairman'.
In budget-making committees however, few members are women. In my opinion, a truly gender-responsive budgeting process requires women and men to equally participate in the entire budgeting process. Who will articulate the unique needs of women if there are no women at the decision-making table?
In consecutive county budget-making processes, I hope to see equal representation of women and men in the budget committees and all procedures. Undoubtedly, this will propel the allocation of resources for programmes that benefit women and men, girls and boys, the elderly, and persons living with disabilities inclusively.