Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Gender and social protection in the developing world: beyond mothers and safety nets

Time (GMT +00) 12:30 14:00


Jackie Ballard - Chief Executive, Womankind Worldwide


Ana María Muñoz Boudet - The World Bank

Nicola Jones – Research Fellow, Social Development Programme, ODI

Rebecca Holmes – Research Fellow, Social Protection Programme, ODI


Jen Marshall  - Head of Profession, Social Development, DFID

Pilar Domingo  - Research Fellow, Politics and Governance, ODI

Introduction  - Jackie Ballard

·         Womankind worldwide is a charity that works with human rights organisations who work to eliminate violence against women and girls and organisations that empower women.

·         To be sustainable, development needs a transformative approach addressing structural gender inequalities and women’s empowerment.

Presentation by Rebecca Holmes (RH) and Nicola Jones (NJ)

RH - Why release this book?

·         The timing of the launch of our book coincides with International Women’s Day and the renewed focus on, and increasing commitment to, gender equality.

·         There is a sustained focus on social protection within the development community as an approach to poverty reduction and within this context, we reflect today on key points in our book

·         The book highlights the progress that has been made in social protection on contributing to women’s empowerment and gender equality but also discusses the significant challenges which will remain in an emerging sector such as social protection

·         The book looks at moving beyond addressing women’s practical needs towards a more transformative gender-sensitive agenda to reducing poverty and vulnerability.

A number of similar threads emerged through the research around gender and SP:

·         Pressures that girls and women face in terms of family responsibilities

·         Tensions in the household over domestic and care work responsibilities

·         A desire from women to enhance their opportunities

What this book hoped to highlight is the perspectives of women, that they are not just passive recipients of social protection benefits, but can be active “changers”

·         Social protection has risen rapidly up the development agenda and has been a proven approach to reducing vulnerability and poverty (evidence in Latin America, South Africa and India)

·         However, there are numerous questions raised about the “transforming” potential of social protection programming.

·         There is a need for SP to be more gender-sensitive and take a more empowered approach; however there are numerous SP programmes that have been identified which do not take gender inequalities into consideration, or at worst are completely gender-blind.

NJ - Impacts of social protection on gender relations and empowerment

There is considerable potential for social protection if underpinned with a strong gender lens, to play a significantly greater role in supporting empowerment and transformation among men and women, boys and girls at all levels; individual, intra-household, community, political and programme implementers.

Key ways to achieve this:

·         Strengthening implementation capacity and investment in resources

o   Programme staff capacities need to be supported

o   And specific budget needs to be allocated

·         Improving institutional coordination and linkages will be key in light of the multi-dimensionality of poverty and vulnerability

·         Maximise opportunities at the community-programme interface

·         Programme and policy design

·         Monitoring and evaluation

Change can be achieved with the support of tools such as this decision tree which provides a step by step guide as to how a gender lens can be embedded within the social protection policy and programme cycle which we developed in a related toolkit, leading to the realisation of gender-sensitive social protection .

Ana María Muñoz Boudet – Presentation

This is a great book that identifies the main barriers within SP programming in relation to gender-sensitive SP.

·         The World Bank (WB) recently released their Social Protection strategy focusing on resilience, equity and opportunity and aims to develop better analytical tools for SP policy making.

How does the WB rate gender?

·         Increased gender informing programme design, accessibility and implementation

·         Increasingly recognising the importance of interacting with those on the ground to implement effective gender SP programming.

We need to be aware of our gender-blindness as sometimes we place our own gender perceptions on these programmes. Not everything is visible for policy makers. Issues such as intersecting and overlapping inequalities, cost and time constraints and the process of decision making in poor households all may be over looked.

Key points:

·         It is important to recognise the aspirations of parents and children, which is difficult to see when we try and quantify data.

·         Empowerment does not equal agency

·         Providing women with some opportunities is not enough.


Pilar Domingo:

This book focuses on looking at the evidence of years of research and drums home the message that there is an important need for the implementation of a gender-lens in SP.

·         However, we still need to address whether SP contributes to gender empowerment and can this lead to social impact?

·         SP can sometimes reinforce traditional gender norms.

The political economy chapter clearly addresses the need for a gender lens at all levels (micro, macro etc.)

Jen Marshall:

This book comes at a time when we can now reflect back on SP programming and enables us to grapple with the question of how to do SP well?

·         It is a great time to release this book as gender is high up on the agenda

DFID want to maximise their systems in delivering effective SP along with making programmes that are sustainable.

We need to focus on the links between gender and SP and look at how these linkages work and how can we implement programming that will effectively address both.

The challenges that face SP are huge, but the book addresses these challenges whilst also focusing on a way forward.

Floor open for questions

Q. Can you think of any indicators that connect climate change, development, social protection and gender?

·         We shouldn’t force indicators to try and link everything.

·         It may be a combination of indicators that would be needed to link these.

·         Need to think not only about the measurability but also about when things are likely to play out.

Ana Maria:

•             Indicators – it is impossible to pick one indicator and say this is the right one. We need to move forward from just sex disaggregated data. Need to measure not just access, but outcomes and welfare.

Q. BRAC – we don’t know much about how to economically empower women – what are your thoughts on the implications for social protection, particularly asset transfer, in light of this comment.

Ana Maria:

·         We know less about how we transfer the right assets and skills?

·         There are tons of training programmes for women – where they learn to be seamstresses/hairdressers/teachers

·         Women segregated in certain sectors of the economy

·         We need to build far more evidence about what are the push factors to get women to the other side

Q. In terms of social protection, when does it seem fit to stop programmes? What happens when the scheme ends and assistance is cut off?

Rebecca Holmes :

·         A lot depends on the objectives of the programmes, the sequencing of programmes and interventions are important.

Nicola :

·         Quotas are not enough. There needs to be regular mentoring so that women can participate in these processes with confidence.

·         It’s packages of interventions that make a difference not just one

·         Life in reality is messy and non-linear

Q. Alison Evans – how can we start reclaiming progressive social policy?

Jen Marshall:

·         We are no longer looking at protection only – we are talking about a whole package of outcomes that go well beyond the remit of where SP started.

·         Transformative social policy back on the agenda? I’d use the construct quite broadly. It’s a discussion we have within social development – aware that we work across a range of social policy sectors interested in SP as a tool within that context. But no, it won’t be a big headline.

·         Need to make sure that this isn’t reduced to an instrument discussion – it needs to be a multi-faceted approach in order to have transformational change.

·         Social protection is a broad continuum - need different interventions that play out over time for transformative change

Nicola Jones :

·         Transformation in social policy came from a World Bank report looking at Cash Transfer programmes where evidence showed that these programmes were not reaching the poorest members of society – this highlighted the need for complimentary interventions along with mainstream programmes.

·         We shouldn’t just focus on instruments

·         What we wanted to do with our book is emphasise that SP is not just about CCTs – we look at a whole range of instruments

·         Sequencing important 


·         at the point of state building – opportunities to think about social policy and protection from the start

Ana Maria:

·         depends on the objective – social policy more difficult to allocate to a particular owner

Conclusion of event – Jackie Ballard

This book is overdue and timely. There are many take away points from this book, but the three important ones for me are:

1.       Monitoring, Evaluation and learning – this book discusses the need for robust gender indicators

2.       We need packages of interventions, not just one off instruments to tackle these issues

3.       Life is messy and non-linear and this needs to be kept in mind when addressing social protection through a gender lens.



Celebrating International Women’s Day 2013, this book launch encapsulates the theme of voice, empowerment and agency, to discuss what these concepts mean in practice and how they can be achieved through different pro-poor policy and programming measures and in different contexts.

Rebecca Holmes and Nicola Jones draw on the findings from their book Gender and Social Protection in the Developing World: Beyond Mothers and Safety Nets to illustrate the progress made in the social protection sector in incorporating objectives of voice and agency, and also highlight the significant challenges that remain in moving the social protection poverty agenda beyond a focus on income and “traditional” gender equality goals.