Public budget in Latin America must promote the participation of girls and adolescent women


A study by Save the Children analyzes the public budget in Peru, Brazil and Guatemala, revealing that the lack of planning and gender-differentiated data especially affects girls.

New York/Panama, October 10, 2019.
Despite the progress that has been made in recent years in improving investment in children, significant challenges remain to ensure that budget planning processes include a gender perspective.

This is demonstrated by the research on public investment in girls carried out by Save the Children, together with the organizations Equidad – Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos (Peru), Centro de Defesa da Criança e do Adolescente – Cedeca Ceará (Brazil) and Coordinadora Institucional de Promoción por los Derechos de la Niñez – Ciprodeni (Guatemala).

The research, which reviewed indicators related to adolescent pregnancy, human trafficking, gender-based violence, access to education and child marriage, was launched in New York on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child.

15-year-old Keren – from Villa El Salvador, Peru – participated in the high-level event, bringing the voice of Latin America’s children and adolescents and explaining her experience of participating in decision-making on the public budget in her municipality. “Participating (in the budgets) has given us the opportunity to develop many more skills, such as active citizen participation, formulating and defending a concrete proposal, fulfilling the duties of an authority, exercising a student government with transparency, with a vision of the future seeking the best for children.”

“If the budget were larger, more schools could benefit, and more children and adolescents would be empowered to become agents of change in their community and even in their country,” said Keren, who was a panelist at the event in New York.

“Gender-sensitive investment is vital for progress towards more developed, just and equitable societies. That is why we call on Latin American and Caribbean states to plan their budgets taking into account the specific needs of girls and adolescents,” said Ann Linnarsson, Director of the Civil Society Support Program at Save the Children’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Investing in girls leads to more equitable societies

Public investment in children and adolescents, expressed as a percentage of the GDP, amounts to 1.33 % in Brazil,  4.00 % in Guatemala and 4.60 % in Peru. Being a girl in poverty and living in a rural area implies multiple exposure to exclusion with respect to the enjoyment of rights and access to services.

In the case of the countries included in the study, it can be seen that budget execution is centralized, especially in the case of Guatemala, where no intermediate range is contemplated and the weight of decentralization is only 4%.

In the case of Peru, despite advances in the visibility of the problem of adolescent pregnancy, public investment is not sufficient to address the magnitude of the problem. In 2018 it amounted to 1.49 % of the “Public Expenditure on Children and Adolescents Plan” (Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations -MIMP, 2018). In the case of prevention and response to human trafficking it is 0.0003 %.

In Brazil, in 2018, four times more was invested in the purchase of armaments (5.1 %) than in children and adolescents (1.33 %), as published that same year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

In the case of child homicide in Brazil, at the request of civil society and associations of children and adolescents in the city of Fortaleza, an adolescent homicide prevention program, “Every Life Matters”, was created with an initial budget of 2.2 million reais, which in the end was not executed. At the national level, there is no program or budget earmarked for the prevention of this problem. Nor is any budget line identified at the national, regional or local levels that contemplates actions aimed at the prevention of child marriage, despite the fact that the country is the fourth country in the world with the highest number of child marriages.

Actions to ensure investment in girls and adolescent women

The study makes the following recommendations to States in order to ensure a fair and equitable investment in girls:

  1. Generate data disaggregated by age, sex, gender, ethnic identity, poverty status, place of residence and other indicators of interest, through public social programs and projects that promote gender analysis.

  2. Carry out gender- and age-sensitive budget planning that recognizes public programs and their importance in sustainable development, giving them a relative weight within public spending, which, in turn, will lead to progress towards more equitable societies.

  3. Disaggregate, by gender and age, complete, disaggregated and timely public budget data needed to make informed decisions on how to allocate and spend available public resources.

  4. Promote the participation of girls and adolescents in budgetary processes at the national, regional and local levels.

  5. Ensure that local and national authorities consult with civil society and integrate innovative approaches to gender-sensitive public investment in children and adolescents.

Brazil: Budget Information System (SIGA) and Ministry of Finance and Public Credit; Guatemala: National Statistics Institute (INE), Integral State Accounting System (Sicoin) and Bank of Guatemala; and Peru: Central Reserve Bank of Peru (BCR), National Statistics and Information Institute (INEI) and Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF).