Burkina Faso: Budgeting for Gender and Children’s Rights

Payoffs from coherent social and fiscal policies can be substantial.

This is particular true in Burkina Faso where only one of 100 women and only four in 100 men complete secondary school, where only 26 percent of women and 44 percent of men over 15 can write, and where over 40 percent of children are exposed to trafficking, hazardous work, and violence. Five of the six countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, including Burkina, are in West and Central Africa. In Burkina, this ratio exceeds 50 percent.

A study by the IMF[1] showed that per capita income growth in low-income countries of Sub-Saharan Africa could increase by as much as 0.75 percentage points if gender inequality were reduced to the levels observed in the fast-growing Asian countries. In Burkina, whose GDP per capita is about US $700, this translates to an opportunity cost of around US $90 million per year. These numbers alone call for a rapid and comprehensive response from the government. 

An increasing number of countries around the world are introducing gender-responsive budgeting. In Africa, Morocco, Uganda and Rwanda are among the champions. Child-sensitive budgeting is relatively new compared to gender budgeting, and is being introduced in a handful of countries, including South Africa, the UK, India, and Brazil.

If you educate a man you educate one individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family. ~Fanti Proverb

In 2018, Burkina Faso introduced Budgeting for Gender and Children’s Rights (BGCR) Initiative to promote gender equality and children’s rights through the budget process.

When a woman is hungry, she says, roast something for the children that they might eat. ~ Ashanti Proverb

Pro-gender and pro-children policies are an important element of Burkina’s 2030 Agenda, and the National Plan for Economic and Social Development (PNDES) for 2016-2020.

In Burkina, the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Development and the Ministry for Women, National Solidarity and Family have been at the forefront of the BGCR Initiative from its start in early 2018. With its planned extension to the local level, the Ministry for Territorial Administration and Decentralization has recently also joined.

The BGCR Initiative is reaching its objectives through six pillars.

First, strengthening the existing institutional framework and promoting extensive consultations.

This framework incorporates national strategies on gender and children’s rights, the focal points for gender in each line ministry and at the Court of Audit, as well as the women’s caucus at the National Assembly. It also involves several fact-finding studies on gender and children’s rights done or commissioned by the authorities, the civil society and the development partners. This framework has enabled an open dialogue—involving line ministries, the Parliament, the Court of Audit, civil society, and the development partners—on pro-gender and pro-children policies.

Second, reinforcing program-based budgeting, introduced in January 2017, which looks at how to deliver public services in an effective and efficient way (e.g., increasing the participation of girls in secondary education from 0.65 in 2016 to 0.80 in 2020) rather than on inputs (e.g., teachers’ salaries), and shows why social policies should focus on people and promote inclusion.


Third, launching an extensive capacity development program, which has included:

Education is the most powerful weapon, which can be used to change the world, Nelson Mandela.


  • The development of learning materials. The first training manual, which has been prepared already in 2014, has been updated in 2016 to incorporate the innovations brought about by program budgeting. Eleven case studies, reflecting the challenges in various sectors, provided practical guidance for the formulation of pro-gender and pro-children activities, the design of related indicators, and their monitoring and evaluation. A fact-sheet as well as a strategy brochure were used to present the objectives of the strategy and raise awareness.


  • Creation of a pool of 25 trainers from ten sector ministries, and elaboration of a didactic guide for the trainers;


  • Organization of training and awareness-raising events, which covered, from early 2017 until end-2019, more than 1.200 representatives from 24 sector ministries (including some 200 working at the local level), the Court of Audit, and civil society, journalists, together with 75 parliamentarians. The participants will use these skills in presenting their budget programs, devising mechanisms for tracking performance, and discussing specific actionable targets with the development partners. Approximately one third of the training has been conducted through Burkina’s National School for Public Finance (ENAREF). A study visit to Morocco in March 2017 provided an opportunity to learn from Burkina’s peers.
If you do not have patience you cannot make beer. ~ Ovambo proverb


Fourth, preparing technical instruments to smooth the implementation, involving:

  • Clear instructions in the budget circulars for 2019 and for 2020, to six and to eighteen ministries, respectively, to implement the BGCR initiative by formulating gender- and children’s rights-sensitive programs, actions and activities, together with quantifiable objectives and indicators, and to include these programs in the ministries’ annual performance reviews. A budget circular is a 30-page document that in April / May of each year starts budget negotiations for the subsequent year. It is signed by the President of Burkina Faso.

Fifth, rolling out gradually the framework for gender and children’s rights responsive budgeting to all sector ministries, through the budget circular for 2021.

Sixth, extending, by 2025, the framework for gender and children’s rights responsive budgeting to the local level (some 370 communes), supported by extensive outreach activities, and an updated set of documents, at the strategic and operational level, such as brochures, learning materials, technical guides and an updated set of case studies. This extension will be part of program budgeting introduced at the local level, as also envisaged by the directives of the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

To date, the BGCR Initiative has already met some of its objectives …

Gender and children’s rights budgeting has been anchored in a total of 6 sector ministries since May 2018 and eighteen sector ministries since May 2019. Extensive capacity building has raised awareness in many institutions and set in motion an extensive adaptation of rules and processes. The budget circular, in particular, has made all this possible.

… but a long journey still lies ahead.  

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb, Nelson Mandela.



The outcomes and the impact of the BGCR Initiative can only be judged in a long-term perspective. One reason for this is that a behavioral change is needed for its success. This takes time. So does a move from a centralized model of managing and implementing reforms to a more decentralized model with more stakeholders involved.

The experience with the implementation of the BGCD Initiative revealed several challenges. One was a true commitment of strategic stakeholders at the ministerial level. The impression was that some ministries were more concerned with fulfilling the formal requirements of the budget process rather than contributing to a change in the ground. Another set of challenges were of technical nature, such as defining disaggregated indicators. A high turnover of staff and a complex institutional set up of ministries also called for a continuous and resource intensive capacity building. Finally, a deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso has recently slowed down the extension of the BGCR Initiative to the local level, and increased its cost.

It always seems impossible until it’s done, Nelson Mandela.


One way to promote the BGCR Initiative going forward would be to show its outcomes and impact through simple and effective monitoring and communication tools.

Some important work on methodologies for measuring results and related tools has already been done.

One example is the adaptation of the format of the annual performance reports to take into account gender and children’s rights. The first six pilot ministries have already prepared these reports.

Another example is a framework for analysis, to be carried out by the staff of the finance ministry, of the draft budgets of ministries and institutions. This framework has already been revised to include checkpoints on gender and children’s rights.

Then there is a new budget code that would help monitor and analyze the expenditures for the pro-gender and pro-children programs, and use the findings to inform future actions. Burkina is currently considering solutions together with some other countries in the region.

A single bracelet does not jingle, African proverb.


A firm integration of the BGCR Initiative into the institutional framework can only be achieved through a continuous cooperation between the Burkinabe authorities and the development partners.

Building on successful cooperation, since 2010, in the area of program budgeting, the Budget Directorate at the Burkinabe finance ministry, and the GIZ “Strengthening Good Financial Governance” project embarked, in early 2017, on the BGCD Initiative. Two other GIZ projects in Burkina Faso, the PRO Enfant – Protection of Children’s Rights, and PDDC – Decentralization and communal development, also took part in it. The Ministry for Women, National Solidarity and Family also took an active role in the Initiative from its start. A group of development partners also joined early on[1], asking the GIZ to continue to coordinate their engagements.

Important synergies have been generated through this cooperation. A joint capacity development strategy, together with a set of learning tools and a pool of trainers, improved the efficiency of training and awareness raising activities. The EU and the African Development Bank linked their budget support to the participation of sector ministries in the BGCR Initiative.


If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together, African proverb.


Going forward

The development is as much about transforming the informal institutions and mindsets as it is about changing the rules and procedures. An open dialogue and a wide consultation process are critical, as is the development of relevant skills and competencies in public administration. Political will and the determination of the leadership are another key factor of success. They paved the way to the BGCR Initiative in Burkina Faso as well.




[1] In particular, the UNICEF, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, USAID/National Democratic Institute, the Delegation of the European Union, a multi-donor trust fund (FCC, Le Fonds Commun Genre), Canada, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), and GIZ


[1] International Monetary Fund, 2016. IMF Working Paper WP/16/111. Inequality, Gender Gaps and Economic Growth: Comparative Evidence for Sub-Saharan Africa.