Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

The politics of gender-responsive social protection

Working papers

Written by Rebecca Holmes, Nicola Jones, Pilar Domingo

Working papers

The past decade has seen progress in advancing gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment through social protection. However, significant challenges persist. Coverage gaps for women of working age, and for children and adolescents, remain high. Addressing gender inequality is often seen as synonymous to targeting women as a vulnerable group, or in their role as mothers or caregivers. And while social protection programmes could be transformational and contribute to women’s and girls’ empowerment, they rarely explicitly aim to do so.

This paper moves beyond discussions around technical policy design and implementation features to understand the political economy factors that either support or hinder a gendered approach, and to identify entry points for action. It explores the factors that affect decisions around resource allocation, legal change and policy formulation using Rosendorff’s ‘three Is’: the institutions (formal and informal), the interests of key actors, and the ideas framing social protection strategies and programmes.

We find that progress in advancing gender-responsive social protection is more likely where:

  1. there is a combination of pro-poor and inclusive national government institutions and influential political elites championing gender-responsive social protection
  2. advocates influence informal decision-making arenas and sub-national political institutions
  3. there is a broad coalition of skilled and resourced actors
  4. the framing of social protection goes beyond seeing women as mothers and carers and instead as recipients of social protection in their own right.

Rebecca Holmes, Nicola Jones and Pilar Domingo