Tracking spending to achieve equality in Ecuador
María Rosa Suquilanda used to struggle on the margins of bare subsistence. When she went to public spaces to sell her produce, authorities would push her away and destroy her goods because she lacked the right permits. But no more. Today, she and other women like her operate in the well-organized Agro Entrepreneurs Market, in the city of Cuenca, nestled high in the mountains of southern Ecuador. “We can go to market because the provincial government gave us spaces to sell our produce,” she says, standing proudly amid piles of maize, beans, peas and fresh vegetables.
Run by the provincial government of Azuay, the market has long sold local agricultural products but it took the Women’s Agenda to carve out enough space for women. The Agenda, a document integrated into the provincial budget, comprises the top priorities for public spending as identified by local women—such as better opportunities to earn an income. Azuay has applied a Women’s Agenda to budgeting since 2012; formulating the budget involves over 1,000 women from across the province. UN Women has assisted at all stages—from supporting women’s organizations in creating the Agenda to helping the Province gain related technical skills.
The change in Azuay has come through a long-standing alliance among UN Women, the provincial government and women’s organizations. Nationally, UN Women, through its predecessor organization, has been at the forefront of encouraging gender-responsive budgeting since 2007, when we supported the Ministry of Finance and Economy in making gender equality a central criterion for evaluating national spending choices. We later helped develop Women’s Agendas in provinces and municipalities around the country. By 2010, the Ministry had adopted a budget classifier to provide a full view of investments in women’s economic empowerment, leadership, elimination of violence and so on.
Using the classifier is mandatory at the national level, where it showed at least USD 364 million spent on gender-related programmes in 2015—a figure up from just USD 34 million in 2011. As of 2016, all provinces and municipalities are obligated to apply the classifier.