Take Five: Gender-responsive budgets contribute to rural women’s recognition as equal members of rural households in Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Gordana Rokvić Knežić is an advisor at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management (MAFWM) of Republika Srpska (RS), and an associate professor of agricultural economics and rural development at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Banja Luka. She has been a researcher and consultant in the field of gender-responsive budgeting since 2009, cooperating with UN Women, the MAFWM and the Gender Center of RS. Through her role as a strategic planning advisor in the Ministry, she contributed to the introduction of gender-sensitive measures within the agricultural policy of RS.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by rural women since the pandemic began?
Although life in rural areas had its advantages during the pandemic, it also had adverse economic and social consequences for the rural population, women included. Increased economic vulnerability resulted from the loss of income for women or members of their households, as many jobs were lost due to business closures. This put the agricultural sector and women engaged therein under pressure, as agricultural activities became a “buffer” for gaining additional sources of income and achieving economic sustainability during the pandemic. Social effects included reduced social contact, fear of infection, and the lack of (or great distance from) adequate institutional support for health, social care and other needs.
What were the steps taken by the Government of RS and the Ministry to support women in rural areas?
The goal of the Government of Republika Srpska during the pandemic was to maintain all the support measures that were already in force: ensure an increase in the agricultural budget, ensure regular payment of incentives, and provide a higher level of support for capital investment in agriculture. We continued to provide equal or more favourable conditions to access these funds to rural women and provided special measures to support women’s associations and cooperatives. We expanded the support to as many users as possible, and did not condition eligibility based on tax payments. Furthermore, we provided over 9,000 sowing packages for small family farms, prioritizing socially vulnerable and rural women with a 10% increase in the value of those packages.
How does gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) contribute to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially for women in rural areas?
The introduction of GRB in rural areas in Republika Srpska began with the adoption of the Strategic Plan for Rural Development of RS in 2010, and later expanded with the Action Plan for Improving the Position of Rural Women – a unique example in the region. The advantages of GRB are many: it makes visible the extent to which budgets contribute to the well-being of women and men, respond to their different needs, and allow each gender to benefit. Gender-responsive budgets contribute to rural women’s recognition as members of the rural household who contribute equally or even more to both agricultural production and the provision of economic and social services in rural households and areas. In addition to the tendency to introduce special measures to support rural women, using GRB leads to gradual but systemic changes in policies for rural development and ensures gender-sensitive outcomes.
How should women in rural areas be supported in the upcoming period to improve their resilience to crisis?
We can boost their resilience by building a support network for rural women at the local, regional and national level; by not leaving them alone, isolated and abandoned in crisis situations because they already live in isolated and sparsely populated areas; by providing additional funds to support rural women in crisis situations; and by continuously working on their economic empowerment through self-employment and by adding value to their products.
How does UN Women support your ongoing efforts in GRB to improve the lives of women in rural areas?
As we strive to make women in rural areas visible in sectoral budgets and policies through GRB, UN Women supports our efforts both nationally and internationally. Through technical support and the engagement of experts, this contributes to our increased capacity to apply and implement GRB in planning and programming. Without the support of UN Women, sectoral policies in agriculture and rural development would remain gender blind.
 Republika Srpska is one of the two entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina.