In 2003, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) became the first Pacific Island government to introduce a gender budget initiative (GBI) as a strategy for promoting gender equality. Important enabling factors which facilitated the GBI included the RMI’s matrilineal culture, its strong women’s nongovernment organisations (NGO) base and a raft of budgetary reforms seeking to increase transparency and accountability. However, a poorly resourced women’s office within the government, low numbers of women holding political office, and the absence of key gender accountability mechanisms limited the success of the initiative. The most significant constraining factor was the RMI’s budgetary context, including the uncertainty created by the US-RMI Compact negotiations. A key lesson for other countries in that GBIs, like any budgetary reform process, encounter a range of problems in changing budgetary processes and decision making, including a lack of political will of the government.