How can we better promote gender-sensitive social protection?

1 November 2010 12:30 - 14:00 GMT+00
Public event
Streamed live online

Speakers:

Nicola Jones  -  Research Fellow, Social Development Programme, ODI

Rebecca Holmes – Research Fellow, Social Protection Programme, ODI

Rosana Vargas - Independent Consultant, Peru

Yisak Tafere - Independent Consultant, Ethiopia

Discussant

Nisreen Alami - Programme Advisor, UNIFEM, New York

Aline Coudouel - Senior Economist, World Bank

Chair

Dr. Charlotte Heath - Head of Profession for Social Development, DFID

Description

Millions of pounds of funding, domestically and internationally, are being invested annually in social protection policies and programmes to address high levels of poverty and vulnerability in the developing world. Poverty is perpetuated by risks and vulnerabilities, many of which are gendered. Time poverty, gender-based violence, discriminatory labour markets and unequal intra-household decision-making power all serve to exacerbate gender inequalities and vulnerability. Despite this, little attention has been paid to social protection’s role in tackling gendered experiences of poverty and vulnerability.

The speakers at this event introduced a much-needed gender lens to debates around social protection, drawing on empirical evidence from an AusAID and DFID-funded multi-country study carried out in Africa, Asia and Latin America which examined three sub-sets of social protection instruments: public works programmes, cash and asset transfers, and subsidies. The speakers discussed policy options for design and implementation changes as a way to harness the potential for social protection to better contribute to transforming gender relations at the individual, intra-household and community levels.

Millions of pounds of funding, domestically and internationally, are being invested annually in social protection policies and programmes to address high levels of poverty and vulnerability in the developing world. Poverty is perpetuated by risks and vulnerabilities, many of which are gendered. Time poverty, gender-based violence, discriminatory labour markets and unequal intra-household decision-making power all serve to exacerbate gender inequalities and vulnerability. Despite this, little attention has been paid to social protection’s role in tackling gendered experiences of poverty and vulnerability.

The speakers at this event will introduce a much-needed gender lens to debates around social protection, drawing on empirical evidence from an AusAID and DFID-funded multi-country study carried out in Africa, Asia and Latin America which examined three sub-sets of social protection instruments: public works programmes, cash and asset transfers, and subsidies. The speakers will discuss policy options for design and implementation changes as a way to harness the potential for social protection to better contribute to transforming gender relations at the individual, intra-household and community levels.

Meeting report

Charlotte Heath began by welcoming participants to the event and introduced the title of the panel session: how can we better promote gender-sensitive social protection? Charlotte confirmed that the event will disseminate findings from an ODI project titled: Gender, vulnerability and social protection.

Charlotte highlighted that within the last 15 years, there has been increased investment in social protection, with millions of pounds spent responding to risks and vulnerabilities. These risks and vulnerabilities have been exacerbated by gendered dimensions, and social protection can play a role in tackling this.

With social protection currently high on the policy agenda, the argument that a gender-lens needs to be applied to debates is strong, and is supported by empirical evidence emerging from this current research.

Three types of social protection interventions are highlighted: cash and asset transfers; public works programmes (PWPs), and subsidies. The policy options include design and implementation changes that transform gender relationships.

Charlotte concluded by introducing the panel: Rebecca Holmes (Research Fellow, Social Protection Programme, Overseas Development Institute); Nicola Jones (Research Fellow, Social Development Programme, Overseas Development Institute); Rosana Vargas (Independent consultant, Peru); Yisak Tafere (Independent consultant, Ethiopia). Charlotte also introduced the discussants, Nisreen Alami, (Programme Advisor – UNIFEM New York), and Aline Coudouel (Senior Economist – World Bank).

Rebecca Holmes began by presenting the development of the conceptual framework which guided the research project.

Social protection consists of both formal and informal interventions that have three main objectives: protection, prevention and promotion. These objectives predominately address economic sources of vulnerability however social protection can also be transformative, and address social sources of risk and social equity. For a transformative agenda, both economic and social sources of risk and vulnerability need to be considered, within a broader framework of social equity.

Traditionally, social protection has not paid much attention to social equity. Chile was cited as an example where the poverty of women in the household is much higher than that of men.

Rebecca explained than although men and women are vulnerable to the same shocks and stresses, they experience them differently, and have different coping strategies.

Economic risks are much easier to identify than social risks (such as social exclusion). However, community dynamics and intra-household norms are gendered.

Social protection often addresses poverty and vulnerability and the household level, however there is often little reference to intra-household, or community dynamics. Just targeting women ignores existing social and cultural norms and power dynamics. However, understanding these is critical for the design of social protection programmes, and for promoting sustainable social protection outcomes.

By failing to consider gender when designing programmes, one can fail to meet national commitments, and risk undermining the potential for economic growth.

The current research project considered gendered risks and vulnerability in social protection projects. It addressed three subsets of interventions: cash and asset transfers; public works programmes; and subsidies, across eight partner countries: Bangladesh; Ethiopia; Ghana; India; Indonesia; Mexico; Peru; and Viet Nam. The social protection programmes investigated have a wide coverage in their respective countries and are not pilot programmes.

Rebecca briefly discussed the project methodology. The research was carried out using a mixed-method approach, involving: interviews; household surveys; focus group discussions (with both men and women); and life histories across different life-cycle stages.

The key objective was to establish how programme designers can better reflect gender in the programmes. What are the entry points, and the challenges of addressing gender concerns?

Following Rebecca’s introduction, Rosana Vargas and Yisak Tafere (independent consultants) presented evidence from two of the eight case studies: the Juntos conditional cash transfer programme in Peru and the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia (respectively).

Rosana Vargas confirmed that conditional cash transfers are widely adopted in Peru, and have broad benefits, including access to health and education and increased levels of consumption. However, programmes lack interventions for promoting sustainable livelihoods for women and often reinforce traditional gender roles. Rosana also highlighted there is often a trade off between meeting women and children’s needs.

Although policies in Peru are gender-aware, there is little research on the gendered impacts of programmes.

The Juntos programme, introduced in 2005,is funded by the Peruvian government. Itcovers half a million households and aims to develop human capital and break the intergenerational existence of poverty.

Although not designed to empower women, transfers under the programme are given to women. Conditions are of benefit to women, and transfers provide women with access to civil documentation, and opportunities for participation for leadership at community level. The Juntos programmeis also linked with complimentary programmes.

At the individual level, Juntos contributes to women experiencing greater decision making power, and the programme also meets the practical needs of women – consumption, investing in health and education, and reducing vulnerability (especially in female headed-households). However, women are restricted by mobility constraints, the programme reinforces traditional gendered roles and time allocation – conditionalities increase women’s time poverty - there is limited involvement of men, supply gaps impede access to health and nutrition, and there are no clear exit strategies.

Rosana also highlighted that the programme has a paternalistic approach, whereby women are treated as children, and are subjected to ‘unofficial’ conditionalities as result of the transfer. The implementation of the programme is still top-down, and women are excluded from decision-making.

Finally, Rosana highlighted key policy implications for ensuring a more gender-sensitive approach which includes capacity-building (on social protection and rights)and increasing women’s access to other programmes and services. For instance, there needs to be institutional linkages, access to credit and improved quality of services. There also needs to be increased participation of men in care roles, and violence against women in Peru (which is a big problem) must be addressed.

Yisak Tafere then went on to present findings from the Ethiopian PSNP. The PSNP has been running for 5 years, covering 8 million people. Yisak confirmed that the basic objective of the PSNP was to provide food security, through asset protection and community-asset production, by providing public works which direct support households with no labour.

However, Yisak highlighted that the transfer is limited and it is difficult to measure graduation (moving out of poverty) as there is no clear exit strategy.

With regards to the appreciation of gender dimensions, Yisak confirmed that this is evident from evolution of the Project Implementation Manuel (PIM) from 2005, to 2010, which shows the increased inclusion of gender equality objectives. Gender equity is specifically referred to in the 2010 project implementation manual (PIM).

The case study in Ethiopia focused on two areas: the Tigray region in the North, and the Southern region (where women’s inequality is more apparent).

Yisak confirmed that in Ethiopia, shocks are not only felt by household heads and adults, but children and that it is important, therefore, for programmes to focus on lifecycle experiences of poverty and vulnerability.. For instance, shocks experienced by girls are multi-layered and impacts on poverty and vulnerability are clear. Despite attention to gender in the policy design, negative elements of the PSNP include the weak implementation of the PIM and the uncertainty of roles – with some men considering public works to be solely women’s work. Transfers are channelled to the household head, who is usually male, and who does not always invest in household consumption.

Finally, Yisak highlighted that the PSNP has limited scope beyond food security, however, the potential is there, the PIM is evolving and gender equality is given more attention. It will also be important to address women’s vulnerability beyond the PSNP.

Nicola Jones concluded the presentations by presenting the overarching conclusions emerging from the multi-country research, and highlighted what implications these have for policy.

Firstly, Nicola confirmed that political economy factors matter; they shape approaches and the extent to which gender is embedded in programme design and implementation. This is important at various levels including: 1) the international level where donors and the global community play an important role, especially in countries with higher aid dependence; 2) the national level, where there are key gender considerations with regards to the role of formal/informal institutions, the rebalance of power relations, and imports of ideas (i.e. social contract), and 3) at programme implementation level, through government capacity building; monitoring and evaluation, and links to complementary programmes, which shape gender-related outcomes.

Programme delivery has institutional power dynamics. The impact of social protection programmes, might be used as political capital by elites, however there are no gender example of this.

Secondly, Nicola went on to present common policy recommendations for supporting a gender-sensitive approach to social protection programmes:

1.       It is critical that policy and programme design is strengthened and includes a mapping of economic and social risks;

2.       There needs to be integration of social protection programmes with complimentary programmes (anti-violence measures, economic, child-care), and investment should be made in building capacity, including the knowledge of implementers, and capacity building for beneficiaries’ participation;

3.       There needs to be improved coordination between actors;

4.       The potential for interface, community dialogue, and shared approaches to care need to be maximised;

5.       Research shows that gender-related monitoring and evaluation is weak (except in the case of Bangladesh), therefore there needs to be investment in collection, analysis and promotion of knowledge sharing through a gender les;

6.       There needs to be the promotion of greater women’s agency and advocacy.

Thirdly, Nicola went on to present policy recommendations related to specific instruments.

Cash and asset transfers:

1.       It is vital to ensure links with complimentary programmes (like in Peru, Bangladesh), for which a systematic approach needed;

2.       Ensure gender-related M&E and learning

3.       The strengths and weaknesses of conditional cash transfers need to be addressed. There is a risk of time burden for women in meeting conditionalities and men need to be involved;

4.       Women need to be involved in decision making.

Public works programmes:

1.       They need to be sensitive to lifecycle demands (such as in Ethiopia and India, where programmes provide child care facilities for example);

2.       Men and women need to be paid equal wages;

3.       Appropriate types of work need to be provided;

4.       There is a need to consider different types of public works programmes (perhaps moving away from traditional manual labour) to address women’s time poverty.

Subsidies:

1.       There is an urgent need for programmes to undertake gender vulnerability assessments. In Indonesia, for example, there is no gendered analysis of food security;

2.       Subsidies need to be combined to include non financial barriers, such as language and literacy;

3.       There needs to be solid market analysis.

Finally, Nicola introduced a decision making tree from the Toolkit which distils down the lessons learn, and provides –steps for programme designers and implementers to support gender-sensitive social protection policy design and implementation.

Charlotte Heath wrapped up the presentations confirming that social protection offers huge potentials for transforming gender-relations, but also huge challenges. She then introduced the discussants: Nisreen Alami (UNIFEM) and Aline Coudouel (World Bank).

Discussants:

Nisreen Alami began by confirming that is an important subject, with social protection as a response to the recent financial crisis. There has been huge debate around development interventions, and the dichotomy of effectiveness: poverty/vulnerability and equity. As a result the women’s rights distinction has become more important.

There is a two track approach, strategies that look at vulnerability and those that promote economic empowerment and women’s agency.

Traditionally, the focus of social protection is on poverty and vulnerability and not empowerment and women’s agency. They do not take into account the realities of women, and gender equity. 

Nisreen commented positively on the frameworks presented, the analysis of social and economic risks, and particularly the decision tree, which unpacks those elements which need to be taken into consideration to ensure poverty reduction as well and empowerment and equity. Then went on to note that it would be interesting to establish what constitutes an empowering programme, as this is not clear.

Social protection is quickly becoming social policy, albeit flawed with regards to women’s empowerment, and rights, which continues despite the emerging knowledge. Women continue to have limited access to services/resources, are negatively impacted by targeting criteria, and often do not have access to documents necessary. Research is important as is addressing design problems; ensuring women have access to benefit from programmes.

Nisreen concluded that political economy discussions are influential. Social protection emerged as a response to demand but are states able to provide these services/resources?  There is a need to provide a political/economic context that addresses poverty, not as solutions (bandages), by addressing bigger factors, such as state potential.

Aline Coudouel then went on to make several key points about the research and the wider debate:

1.       The transformative focus is good, it is clear that social protection can have different impacts beyond just providing cash or jobs etc;

2.       Programmes are not gender blind, but are gender neutral. There are vulnerabilities of different genders, and it is important to address how programmes affect gender, also looking at their objectives as to whether they were designed to address gender equality or not;

3.       There has been a focus on the negative gender-impacts of programmes, including time poverty and reinforcing traditional gender roles, but also a suggestion that women need to be more involved in programme governance. We need to be careful, as programme’s requiring greater women’s involvement can increase women’s time poverty.

4.       There are a broader range of government interventions than social protection, which do not have gender equality as an objective therefore it is not fair to judge the effectiveness of these programmes with a gender-lens. There is a risk of over-loading programmes. It is however, important to link complimentary programmes, i.e. law, access to credit/insurance mechanisms. Gender-related needs should be considered. 

5.       What would a good social protection programme look like? Would it involve more work for women/less work for women; more consumption? What would be different to what we have currently? Households tasks will not go away and we need to ensure we are not adding to the burden. What outcomes are we seeking?

6.       If time poverty is a problem, maybe public works programmes are not suitable for women? Or perhaps there are different types of programme we can consider?

Discussion

Comments and questions raised in the discussion included:

·         Could recommendations apply to other types of development programmes? Gender-sensitive assessment and design is not unique to social protection, why is social protection unique in this study? Social protection is big on the current agenda, and work done on gender-mainstreaming is not making linkages in design or implementation, or at local level.

·         Many interventions under the guise of social protection are not new (e.g. welfare programmes etc.)

·         Women central to social protection, i.e. in the case of conditional cash transfers where women are critical players in their implementation. This challenges what we consider gender mainstreaming, and different interventions will have different results and tensions. What do we mean by gender mainstreaming in new programmes? Gender-equality is central to programme design, such in the case of cash transfers in Bangladesh, where women’s empowerment is central to achieving objectives at the household and community level. Women are empowered to make advancements in poverty and vulnerability reduction.

·         Important to not overload social protection programmes.

·         Could social protection programmes provide an entry point for women into financial inclusions, by getting them into the financial system? What options to technological solutions provide?

·         How much has been invested?

·         Gender-dimensions should not be considered in programmes as a special interest, rather it is fundamental in addressing multi-dimensional vulnerabilities and to provide efficient and effective programmes over time. Gender in social protection needs to be re-framed in a more compelling manner.

·         Do case studies show that programmes affect relationships between those poor women included, and those excluded? Yes, in both cases. The problem is with the targeting of the ‘poor’ themselves. In Peru, Juntos is adequately targeted at the national level, but not at the community, or household level, where disruptions in relationships are evident.

·         Conditional cash transfers are not sufficient for moving people out of poverty on their own. There need to be complimentary state interventions which are linked.

·         There is a need for understanding the multi-layer instance of vulnerability across a person’s lifespan.