At this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, IDS researchers highlighted the limitations of social protection policies such as cash transfers in relation to improving the lives of women across the world.
Integrating social protection policies with public services and infrastructure
They argued that social protection policies can only be truly effective in empowering women and girls when they go hand in hand with adequate public services such as water, sanitation and gas and access to infrastructure including roads, schools and hospitals.
IDS Research Fellow and UN Women Expert Group member Deepta Chopra highlights in her background paper for CSW 2019 that programmes designed to help women back into work will only be able to achieve limited gains if they are not coupled with the holistic support required. She also argues that social protection programmes must recognise the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work that women undertake and avoid reinforcing traditional gender roles.
Recognition of unpaid care work in women’s economic empowerment programmes
The costs of not sufficiently recognising women’s unpaid care work in women’s economic empowerment programmes were highlighted in findings from the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) programme. The report from the programme entitled No Time to Rest was featured on BBC Radio 4 when lead researcher, Deepta Chopra was interviewed on Woman’s Hour. The report was also accompanied by an animation, Time to Care.
Deepta spoke alongside the UK Minister Lord Ahmad on a Unicef, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UKAid and Gender and Adolescence Global Evidence(GAGE) hosted panel discussion around gender- and adolescent-responsive social protection, as well as at an Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality side event.
Creating social protection programmes that support women and nurture children
IDS researcher Keetie Roelen has also drawn attention to the need for social protection programmes directed at encouraging women back into work to link and be integrated with services such as health, education and child care. Emerging evidence from her in-depth research in Haiti shows that supporting women to have sustainable livelihoods such as livestock rearing or market trade needs to go hand-in-hand with promoting a nurturing environment for their children to achieve positive impacts all round.
Does poverty stop at employment?
The side event brought together speakers from the Women’s Equality Party and UNECA, as well as researchers funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID) through the Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research. The event drew on research and sought to identify the realities of women, work and social protection. The participants explored whether the focus of social protection is turning much more towards supporting women getting into employment, rather than keeping out of poverty.
Strengthening women’s empowerment through participation
Research at IDS also underlines the importance of integrating women’s economic empowerment with their political empowerment. Through a project developed by IDS in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations, researchers at IDS have been working with the Women Headed Household Empowerment Programme (PEKKA). PEKKA is a network of associations that support over 29,000 rural widows and abandoned and divorced women in savings and loan cooperatives in 900 villages across Indonesia. The programme supports women to develop skills for democratic decision-making and economic autonomy through their participation in micro lending collectives, group and individual enterprises, as well as enhancing their participation in decision-making processes in the community.
This story was first published on the IDS website and is reproduced with permission.