Toward gender equality in social protection. Evidence gaps and priority research questions


by Amber Peterman, Neha Kumar, Audrey Pereira, and Daniel Gilligan | March 18, 2020

In this recent UNICEF GRASSP think piece, our colleagues Amber Peterman, UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, Neha KumarAudrey Pereira & Daniel O. Gilligan, International Food Policy Research Institute discuss evidence gaps and priority research questions to increase our understanding of how social protection can improve gender equality.

Social protection is a leading strategy for addressing poverty, vulnerability to shocks, and underinvestment in human capital at-scale in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Its popularity among governments is due in part to evidence showing that social protection is effective at bolstering household consumption and food security, and increasing investments in productive assets and educationamong others.

Poverty, vulnerability and well-being have inherent gender dimensions, thus it is not surprising that gender considerations have historically shaped certain design features of social protection in LMICs. Since the late 1990s, with the emergence of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) as social welfare policies in Latin America, women were typically targeted instrumentally as a way to achieve main programme goals related to improving human capital of children. More recently, the narrative has expanded to acknowledge the intrinsic value of increasing gender equality and facilitating women’s empowerment. In 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified social protection policies as vital to achieving targets under Goal 5 (gender equity and empowerment of women and girls), in addition to calling for minimum social protection coverage, by sex and age, as part of Goal 1 (end poverty and inequality). In 2018, the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board of the International Labour Organization (ILO) formed its first ever working group on gender in preparation for the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), with a priority theme that included social protection systems. Through preparation for CSW, background papers have addressed the importance of social protection to address gender dimensions of wellbeing. Thus, social protection, a policy instrument which has been traditionally promoted for its role in reducing poverty and vulnerability, is now also being recognised for its potential contributions to gender equality. <…>

While an impressive number of research efforts are ongoing—and will contribute to knowledge in the coming years—based on the current evidence landscape, we present our view of five priority research gaps (beginning with highest importance) to advance understanding of how to leverage social protection for gender equality and the wellbeing of women and girls.

Read the full piece here>>


This think piece draws on concepts in a related chapter: Peterman, A., Kumar, N., Pereira, A. and Gilligan D. “Toward gender equality: A critical assessment of evidence on social safety nets in Africa.” prepared as a chapter for the  2019 Annual Trends and Outlook Report (ATOR), “Gender Parity in Rural Africa: From Commitments to Outcomes” Quisumbing, A., Meinzen-Dick, R. and Njuki, J. (Eds). This chapter was undertaken with funding support from the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Photo: Women beneficiaries of IDA funded Human Development Programs (nutrition, social protection, and education) in the village of Soavina in Madagascar. World Bank / Sarah Farhat