Towards Gender Equality: A Review of Evidence on Social Safety Nets in Africa

IFPRI Discussion Paper 1903

67 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2020

See all articles by Amber Peterman

Amber Peterman

Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Neha Kumar

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Audrey Pereira

IFPRI’s Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division

Daniel O. Gilligan

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: December 2019

Abstract

Over the last decade, social safety nets (SSNs) have rapidly expanded in Africa, becoming a core strategy for addressing poverty, responding to shocks, increasing productivity and investing in human capital. Poverty, vulnerability and well-being have inherent gender dimensions, yet only recently has gender equality been considered as a potential program objective. This study reviews the evidence on the impact of SSNs on women’s wellbeing in Africa, while contributing to an understanding of how SSNs affect gender equality. We first motivate and take stock of how gender shapes the design and effectiveness of SSNs in Africa. We then summarize evidence from rigorous impact evaluations of SSNs on women’s wellbeing across five key domains from 38 studies on 28 SSN programs across 17 countries. We find substantial evidence that, in many instances, SSNs decrease intimate partner violence and increase psychological wellbeing for women, as well as moderate evidence that SSNs increase dietary diversity and economic standing. We find minimal evidence that SSNs improve women’s food security and nutrition; however, few studies measure these outcomes for women. Finally, a substantial body of evidence reports on the impact of SSNs on women’s empowerment and intra-household bargaining power, however, with weak and mixed results. Our findings are generally promising, since most SSNs are not designed specifically to increase women’s wellbeing. However, the results show that household-level impacts do not automatically imply individual women benefit, and further that conclusions from global evidence reviews do not necessarily apply in Africa. There is little research that rigorously identifies the design features and impact pathways from SSNs to gender equality and women’s wellbeing, suggesting a priority for future research.

Keywords: gender, gender equality, public services, women, poverty, food security, nutrition, empowerment

Suggested Citation

Peterman, Amber and Kumar, Neha and Pereira, Audrey and Gilligan, Daniel O., Towards Gender Equality: A Review of Evidence on Social Safety Nets in Africa (December 2019). IFPRI Discussion Paper 1903. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3516279

Amber Peterman (Contact Author)

Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC NC 27514
United States

Neha Kumar

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Audrey Pereira

IFPRI’s Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Daniel O. Gilligan

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

2033 K St., NW
Washington, DC 20006-1002
United States
202-862-8146 (Phone)
202-467-4439 (Fax)

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