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Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19
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Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19

While the world may have been caught off guard by the size and ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis, it should be prepared to respond to the increased risks to the wellbeing and safety of children and women. Violence against children and violence against women are widespread globally and intrinsically linked, sharing common risk factors and similar adverse and severe consequences. The literature within pandemics may be limited, but we have enough evidence to say unequivocally that related factors—such as confinement, social isolation, increased levels of financial stress, and weak institutional responses—can increase or intensify levels of violence. Indeed, over the past month, reports have warned of the “perfect storm”, manifesting in increased calls to helplines, online support services, and police reports.Indeed, over the past month, reports have warned of the “perfect storm”, manifesting in increased calls to helplines, online support services, and police reports. Multinational organisations quickly took action, issuing statements warning of increased risk of both forms of violence, while researchers reviewed evidence from past crises, proposing policy actions to mitigate against potential harm to populations in situations of vulnerability. As governments ramp up response to COVID-19, what is actually being done to combat violence? 1. Expansion of helplines and information sharingInformation is being shared widely through guides, resources, and advocacy targeting friends and family members. Parenting for Lifelong Health has compiled evidence-supported guidance for safe parenting during quarantine. Helplines and online support platforms are being expanded or established. Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, is preventing “an emergency within an emergency” by advertising the 1522 helpline for violence and stalking. Numerous other countries are committing to keeping helplines and information channels open during and after the peak of COVID-19. 2. Funding shelters and other safe accommodation options for survivorsNumerous countries have acknowledged that additional safe housing is needed during times of quarantine. Safe accommodation allows survivors (and accompanying minors) to temporarily escape abusers. As part of its COVID-19 relief package, Canada has allocated $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres [March 18]. In France, a €1.1 million funding increase for anti-abuse organisations included 20,000 hotel nights for survivors to escape abusive partners [March 30]. In Trento (Italy), a prosecutor ruled that in situations of domestic violence the abuser must leave the family home rather than the victim [March 28]. Similar rulings have been given in Austria and Germany. Although a laudable decision, it makes guaranteeing the safety of survivors, who remain at home a challenge given that perpetrators know where to reach them and may have access to the home. Sixteen-year-old Julia attends online school from home while her parents telework during the Coronavirus outbreak in New York.3. Expansion of access to services for survivorsAs quarantine limits personal mobility and freedom of movement, some countries are finding ways to expand access to violence-related services. France has initiated ‘pop up’ centres in grocery stores, where women are likely to be already visiting [March 30]. In a number of countries (including France, Italy, and Spain), a specific 'code word' signals to pharmacies to contact the relevant authorities. Some countries have released or improved concealed apps through which women can seek services to avoid calling in close quarters with abusers (see Italy, UK, among others). Protection services for women and children must be considered “essential” and not locked down due to COVID-19.  4. Limiting risk factors associated with violenceSome countries are tackling the negative ways of coping with COVID-19 that may exacerbate the risk of violence. Greenland has banned alcohol sales in its capital Nuuk to reduce the risk of violence against children in the home [March 29]. South Africa has taken similar measures [26 March]. While alcohol abuse and problematic drinking is shown to be linked to more severe violent episodes, the relationship is complex and there is limited evidence of how alcohol-related policies affect violence. Other countries, however, have yet to take proactive steps to limit associated risks. Curtailing gun sales, for example, would limit access to fatal weapons at a time of heightened stress, potentially reducing the risk of female homicide and child deaths. Smart policy action can reduce risk of harm and facilitate positive outlets to reduce stress and promote mental health. 5. Modifications to family law and justice systemsAustralia has implemented a number of modifications to family law to allow the justice system to better respond to cases during quarantine [April 3]. First, they allow courts to impose electronic monitoring requirements for bail and conditionally suspend imprisonment orders. Second, they enable online filing of restraining orders. Third, they create a new offence, increased fine, and extended limitation period for restraining orders. As more countries experience extended periods of curtained justice services, further innovation and amendments are needed to ensure the protection of survivors in challenging situations. These actions are commendable, however many countries have still not committed resources to increase services. Initial policy responses are largely in high-income countries, which may reflect the reality that many resource-poor settings have limited budgets for addressing violence against children and violence against women even when there is no crisis. Where and how should resources be targeted? While reported cases and numbers from existing services give us a signal of what might be happening, they also give an imperfect picture. For example, in some settings, calls to domestic violence hotlines have decreased, possibly because survivors are in ear shot of perpetrators in quarantine and are unable to safely seek help. In others, demand for shelters has decreased, potentially because survivors are afraid of contracting COVID-19 within close quarters at shelters. In addition, some routine detection systems are closed, such as teachers or social workers. Already in the US, several states have reported reductions in child abuse and maltreatment, believed to be due to a reduction in detection, rather than occurrence. Further, increased time spent on phones and using computers to communicate in place of in-person interactions also poses additional avenues for perpetration of new forms of violence online, including sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. Mitigation efforts must address the diverse forms of violence connected with COVID-19. Actions taken must be continuously monitored to ensure they are having intended effects, and do not result in unintended harm. “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes.” As the UN Secretary-General urgently calls for peace in homes around the world, we hope that this non-exhaustive list of government responses will provide some inspiration for further action. When it comes to preventing and reducing violence and supporting survivors, everyone has a part to play, particularly in these unprecedented times.   Alessandra Guedes is the Gender & Development Research Manager at UNICEF Innocenti. Amber Peterman is a Social Policy Specialist with UNICEF Innocenti and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dina Deligiorgis is Policy Specialist on ending violence against women at UN Women.
Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19
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Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19

COVID—19 is wreaking health and economic turmoil worldwide. These impacts are all the more pronounced in low-income or crisis-affected countries, where the economic crisis caused by the pandemic may hit harder than the virus itself. This is the case for Jordan which, in addition to 15.7% of its population living below the poverty line, hosts 650,000 registered refugees who fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Since 2017, UNICEF Jordan has been supporting vulnerable households with  monthly direct cash payments (known as ‘Hajati’). This cash is ‘no strings attached’ but recipients are encouraged to use it to support children’s schooling. Forthcoming UNICEF Innocenti research reveals how Hajati positively impacts children’s lives. But how can social protection be expanded rapidly to support families made even more vulnerable by a global pandemic? The case of Hajati provides some valuable reflections. To counter the spread of the virus, the government of Jordan declared a state of emergency, implementing a stringent lockdown and deploying the army to enforce a strict curfew. While these containment measures slow the spread of COVID—19, many already vulnerable people have suddenly found themselves without an income. UNICEF Jordan quickly started working with the government and other partners to offset the impact of the lockdown for children. New vulnerable households were added to the Hajati cash transfer programme. This expansion provides urgent support to households that cannot count on savings to cope with the shock. Saleh, the eldest sibling of eight children, is 13 years old and in 8th grade at a UNICEF-supported double-shifted school in Wadi al-Sier. He is considering going back to work as, even with the Hajati support, the family continues to struggle with high living costs and rent.Following the closure of all schools on 15th March, UNICEF Jordan is helping to provide distance learning to children, fulfilling Hajati’s primary aim of supporting children’s education. Using TV and online platforms, as well as providing information on age-appropriate lessons through Hajati communication networks, UNICEF Jordan continues to support the most vulnerable children during this particularly challenging period.   Four factors to get cash to those who need it, fast Time was of the essence as the lockdown immediately impacted people’s livelihoods and included an imminent bank closure. In just two weeks, UNICEF Jordan scaled up Hajati to include 18,000 additional vulnerable children. Four factors made this possible: 1. Comprehensive data on potential recipientsUNICEF Jordan maintains a database with information on 38,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households. This was used to rapidly identify households not receiving Hajati but who were in urgent need of financial support. 2. Efficient and safe payment systemsUNICEF Jordan leveraged existing systems to transfer funds. Under a partnership with 26 humanitarian organizations (Common Cash Facility), households registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) can quickly and safely access Hajati cash using an iris scan. Furthermore, by coordinating with other cash providers, payment dates are staggered to avoid overcrowding and to reduce the potential transmission of the virus at ATMs. 3. Direct communication with recipients UNICEF Jordan has three channels to communicate with beneficiaries: SMS for one-way communication; RapidPro for two-way SMS communication at no cost to beneficiaries; and a helpline for direct communication. These allow UNICEF to quickly update people about Hajati and inform them of basic safety measures to avoid contracting the virus while collecting the cash. 4. Readily available fundsBolstered by research (forthcoming) on the positive impacts of Hajati for children, UNICEF Jordan had already secured funding for the programme through to December 2020. This financial buffer allowed UNICEF to scale-up its cash response rapidly, without immediate fundraising. Despite this recent expansion, even more children could benefit from Hajati. If sufficient funds are raised, 50,000 more children could quickly be included, in addition to the 18,000 now benefiting from the recent scale-up. To achieve this, UNICEF Jordan has issued a funding appeal.   Jacobus de Hoop is manager of humanitarian policy research at UNICEF Innocenti. Luisa Natali is a Social Policy Specialist at the UNICEF Innocenti. Alexis Boncenne is Programme Officer in UNICEF Jordan’s Social Protection section. Angie Lee is a Communications Specialist with UNICEF Innocenti. Discover more about UNICEF Innocenti’s research on Social Protection and Cash Transfers, as well as work on Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings. Readers interested in more detailed discussion of shock-responsive social protection can read a literature review by Oxford Policy Management (2017). Those interested in UNICEF’s approach to shock-responsive social protection and humanitarian cash transfers can find out more here and here.
Children on the move in East Africa: Research insights to mitigate COVID-19
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Children on the move in East Africa: Research insights to mitigate COVID-19

Migration is a core coping strategy for many children and young people across the globe, whether on their own or with their families. But it can also make children and young people vulnerable to further harm and deprivation in the absence of adequate and reliable services and social and economic support. While levels of vulnerability are dependent on multiple factors, COVID-19 is likely to pose an additional threat for those who are in transit, and those who have moved away from their homes and are living in uncertain circumstances. The protection of migrant children needs to be a central component of the COVID-19 response. We were scared to ask anyone else for help.If your friends won’t help you, then why would anyone else? - Young female migrant, 19 years old, SomaliaUNICEF Innocenti is leading a research study across Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan exploring the harms, vulnerabilities and wellbeing of children and young people who have left their homes either out of choice or coercion. Over 1,200 children and young people (aged between 14 and 24 years) were surveyed in 2019 and insights from this data point to a number of challenges likely to be faced by both girls and boys, many of whom live in squalid and cramped conditions, in the context of public health responses to curbing the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19. First, the emphasis on handwashing assumes at a minimum access to water and soap. Yet in our research sample, almost four in ten (37%) of children and young people on the move do not have access to facilities to wash themselves. This is true for those living in camps as well as those in urban or other areas. As health authorities urge people to wash their hands regularly as an effective way to stop virus transmission, this lack of access puts those who have moved away from their homes in much greater harm.   [caption id="attachment_2440" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Mubarak Mohammed Hashi, 20, driving his taxi in Hargeisa, Somaliland, first left home when he was 17 years old in search of what he hoped would be a better life abroad.[/caption] Furthermore, it is not just hygiene and washing facilities that are lacking for these vulnerable children. Many children and young people on the move are excluded from other basic services: one in four have not been able to access health services when they needed them, one in four reported being unable to access shelter or accommodation, and two in five have not been able to go to school when they wanted to. COVID-19 is likely to place further strain on struggling public services, either through greater demand (health) or closures (schools). Inevitably, the result will be more vulnerable children unable to get basic support. Second, many global and national policy responses to COVID-19 – such as lockdown and quarantine - require family and social networks being available to provide support in a time of crisis. Yet in our research sample, one in five children and young people on the move report living alone (and this is more so for boys than girls). As a result, it is likely that they will find it much harder to get the help they need, particularly if the state and public services come under greater strain as the COVID-19 disease spreads. Programmes of support should therefore make sure they can support even the hardest-to-reach vulnerable groups. Where mechanisms such as social distancing and isolation are called for, it cannot be assumed that children and young people have a safe space to which they can retreat. Third, experience so far shows that providing simple, credible information on what the public should or must do is a core part of the strategies for slowing the spread of the virus. Quite rightly, many governments and health agencies are using digital platforms to engage the public, and to allow services such as schooling to be delivered by digital means. However, this assumes access to the internet, and yet our findings show that as few as one in four children and young people on the move had access to the Internet (and as low as 15% for 14-17 years old). Language and other cultural barriers were also seen to present a significant challenge for those who were outside of their country of origin. Communications and engagement campaigns therefore must also unlock non-digital assets and be aware of the need for linguistically and culturally relevant messaging. Boys play football near Hargeisa, Somaliland, a territory that has been particularly affected by ongoing drier and hotter conditions, with the delayed and projected below-average rains.Furthermore, not only are messages that are scientifically grounded important, but so are the messengers for effective communication: issues of trust are crucial in ensuring that people comply with key messaging. Our research suggests that police and government officials are among the least trusted groups for migrant children, while many more have confidence in social workers, religious groups, international charities and teachers. Therefore, it is imperative that governments continue to fund and support these actors to continue to provide much needed information and support to reach migrant children and young people. Fourth, even while we head into the eye of this particular storm it is also important to consider the medium to long-term economic consequences of the health pandemic. Economic concern was a contributing factor for why two in every three child or young person first moved from their home area. If economies are hard hit over the next few months, it is very likely that this will lead to an increase in children and young people being compelled to leave their homes in search of jobs and safety. The impacts of COVID-19 and policy responses on current migrants should not be underestimated. Already at the receiving end of stigma and discrimination, safe migration routes are only likely to shrink further, leaving migrant children and young people further exposed to risks of exploitation in order to facilitate their journeys. Our research points to some of the harms associated with smuggling and trafficking networks in the region. With humanitarian services already stretched far beyond capacity, the economic fallout will only create further negative consequences for those who are already vulnerable. Furthermore, with increasing border closures and regulation, migrant children and young people are likely to find it harder to be united with families who have already migrated or to return home safely. And with so much attention on the demands of a pandemic, mechanisms for protection – such that they are – will only be stretched thinner. ------------------------------------------------ The findings presented here are based on a DFID-funded project on Understanding the Perceptions, Experiences and Vulnerabilities of Children and Young People on the Move in the Horn of Africa. A comprehensive research report is currently being drafted and will be published in the second half of 2020. However, given the seriousness of the current pandemic, UNICEF Innocenti has produced this blog with analysis of relevant findings to provide useful insights to support governments and agencies responsible for protecting and supporting children on the move Additional resources UN Migration Network Statement ‘Covid-19 Does not discriminate, nor should our response’ (20 March 2020): https://migrationnetwork.un.org/statements/covid-19-does-not-discriminate-nor-should-our-response United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What you need to know about the virus to protect you and your family’. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19 Henrietta Fore (UNICEF) ‘Time is running out to protect refugees from a coronavirus crisis, Aljazeera, 31 March 2020. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/time-running-protect-refugees-coronavirus-crisis-200330063002696.html  
Educating the hardest to reach: Lessons from non-formal education in Nepal
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Educating the hardest to reach: Lessons from non-formal education in Nepal

A total of 835,401 children and adolescents were out of school in Nepal in 2017, equivalent to 11.3 per cent of the primary and secondary school aged population (UNESCO – UIS, 2020).[1] This rate varies across the country and population, as barriers related to poverty, social exclusion linked to caste and ethnicity, disability, social norms and gender biases, migration, child labor, mother tongue, and geographical location disproportionately keep children out of school (Nepal Ministry of Education School Sector Development Plan, 2016). Access to education, however, does not guarantee learning. Around 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school (World Bank, 2019). In Nepal, one survey found that of the children assessed, over 50 per cent of third graders were unable to understand half of what they were reading, and most were reading only at a grade 1 level. The same study found that 19 per cent of grade 3 students and 37 per cent of grade 2 students could not read a single word (RTI, 2014, as cited in Ministry of Education, 2016). barriers related to poverty, social exclusion, caste and ethnicity, disability, gender biases, migration, child labor, mother tongue, and geographical location disproportionately keep children out of schoolIn response to these challenges in education, UNICEF has been supporting the Government of Nepal to prepare and implement a Consolidated Equity Strategy for the School Education Sector. UNICEF is also working with local municipalities and civil society partners in deprived regions to implement two contextualized approaches to helping the most marginalized out-of-school children access education. The long-standing Girls Access to Education (GATE) programme focuses on helping out-of-school girls return or enroll in the formal education system, while Kheldai Sikne Kendra (KSK), which means ‘Center for Learning by Playing’ provides a more flexible learning model well-suited to reaching out-of-school boys and girls in urban areas. Young learners attend a UNICEF-supported Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) small group activity in Mithila Municipality in Dhanusha District in Nepal’s south.The GATE programme, which receives financial support from Let Us Learn[2], provides full-time non-formal education for a period of nine months, teaching disadvantaged girls the basic literacy, numeracy, and life skills they need to successfully transition into the formal school system. In partnership with 30 local governments, UNICEF supported 300 GATE classes reaching 7,394 girls in Nepal’s Province 2 during the 2018-2019 programme year. Approximately 89 per cent of participants successfully enrolled into formal school upon completion of the programme, exceeding the programme’s original target of 80 per cent. KSK is a newer non-formal education model in Nepal, first conceptualized with stakeholders in 2014, piloted in 2015, and progressively scaled up in partnership with the NGO Samunnat Nepal and local municipalities. There are currently 10 centres present in three provinces, and the programme’s learning modality has also been taken up by 47 alternative learning centers in the same region. KSK provides a child-friendly, flexible-time learning space to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged urban out-of-school boys and girls aged 10 to 19 who may have responsibilities and challenges that do not allow them to regularly attend school. KSK learning centres are open 250 days a year for 6 days a week. Utilizing a multi-grade, multi-level methodology, facilitators closely support and monitor each individual child or adolescent’s learning progress. Through linkages with formal schools, the programme has helped 65% of its 10-13-year-old participants enroll in formal schooling. Through GATE and KSK, UNICEF and its partners are providing an opportunity for groups that would otherwise not have had access to education. This includes ethnic minorities who often face discrimination, such as Dalit castes, which constituted 32 per cent of GATE participants and 40 per cent of KSK programme beneficiaries in 2018. A recent report on out of school children in Nepal found that, strikingly, more than half of children in the primary and lower secondary age school groups of Dom (58.4 per cent) and Mushahar (51.3 per cent) - both Dalit castes - were out of school (UNICEF, 2016). Children from migrant families coming from India, who face constraints in access to education, have also particularly benefited from the KSK programme. Both GATE and KSK are measuring child learning outcomes to understand progress in this area, as access and learning are key goals of non-formal education. In 2018, GATE participants improved their average score on a pre- and post- test by 53 percentage points from the start to the end of the nine-month programme. For KSK, meanwhile, a leveled assessment framework has been piloted to measure progress and map learner achievement to the grade levels of the formal education system.  In addition to learning, positive behavior change in participants – which includes social skills and hygiene and sanitation practices - has been documented as an important outcome of the KSK intervention. if children are not provided with the flexibility to learn on their own terms, they often will not participate in educational opportunities, particularly when their families’ livelihoods depend on their work.KSK’s flexibility has allowed children who work to support their families to visit the centres for learning when their schedule allows them to do so. Children and adolescents often feel a strong responsibility towards their families and may be the designated income earners of their households. In 2018, 62 per cent of KSK participants reported they were engaged in household chores: 63 per cent of all boys reported engaging in household chores while the corresponding figure for girls was 60 per cent.  The remaining 38 per cent of KSK participants reported that they worked in various forms of labor outside of the home to help their family. Labor outside the home was mostly performed by boys; girls were only engaged as street vendors. In contrast, boys were found to work in restaurants, transportation, shops and as factory workers. In a recent site visit to a KSK center in Chitwan, one adolescent participant mentioned that his mother and siblings were in India and that he was working in Nepal to support them. While aiming to return or enroll children and adolescents into formal schooling, the KSK model acknowledges this dilemma: if children are not provided with the flexibility to learn on their own terms, they often will not participate in educational opportunities, particularly when their families’ livelihoods depend on their work. In recent site visits, children from both programmes showed great enthusiasm about their learning experiences and all spoke of their career aspirations. They enjoyed learning and were particularly aware of the benefits of learning English. “If we speak English, we can have a job,” one KSK female student shared. A large share of KSK beneficiaries at one center wanted to be policemen[3]; others wanted to be teachers. Many former and current GATE participants (all girls) also shared that they wanted to be teachers; one girl mentioned that she would grow up to be a rail engineer, defying stereotypes in what is still a society with entrenched gender norms. Despite the accomplishments of these non-formal education programmes, important challenges remain for the achievement of inclusive education in Nepal. According to local government leaders, most children complete up to grade 5, but they start to drop out later. Some GATE graduates interviewed mentioned that, while the non-formal education programmes are free of cost, once enrolled into formal school, they face important financial constraints. For example, while formal education is nominally free, they are still required to pay examination fees (between 50 and 500 NPR, roughly between 0.44 and 4.41 USD) or bear the cost of school supplies and uniforms. In addition, according to World Education, GATE graduates are often discriminated against when they attend formal schools. Due to social biases related to ethnicity or caste, GATE graduates are thought to ‘bring down’ the level of public schools, although a recent internal assessment by World Education revealed that they actually outperformed their formal school student counterparts (World Education, unpublished). When speaking with local leaders about common causes for drop out, important challenges, such as child marriage and parents not caring for their children continuing their studies were raised. For girls, menstruation was cited as leading to missing 3 to 5 days of school every month, leading them eventually to drop out of school. Lastly, the high unemployment rate amongst young people in Nepal makes parents question whether the investment of time and resources yields returns. Indeed, a recent UNICEF report found that lack of parents’ interest (26.1 per cent) was the major reason cited amongst children who had never attended school (Ministry of Education, UNICEF and UNESCO, 2016). GATE and KSK provide strong examples of contextualized approaches to expanding access to education and learning to marginalized out-of-school children in Nepal.  Going forward questions remain as to the replicability and scalability of these programmes in different contexts within the country, which further evidence generation will attempt to help answer. In the meantime, local government leadership in implementing, scaling, and providing financial support to both programmes suggest they currently have a lot to contribute on the pathway towards SDG 4, ensuring that every child in Nepal has access to quality learning. [1] 770 thousand children were not attending school, equivalent to 14.3% of primary and lower secondary school aged children in the country according to the 2011 census (Ministry of Education, UNICEF and UNESCO, 2106). MICS 2014 data places this figure slightly higher - around 16.1 per cent of children were out of school in 2014.[2] Dedicated to bringing the most marginalized children in five countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal - back into school.[3] This is largely attributed to the local implementing partner supporting that particular KSK center being founded by ex-police.  Robert Jenkins is the Associate Director of the Education Section in the Programme Division at UNICEF Headquarters, New York, USA. Priscilla Idele is Deputy Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti in Florence, Italy.
Awkward truths and the changing face of social protection
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Awkward truths and the changing face of social protection

Social protection is a fundamental right and key tool in addressing shocks, vulnerability and poverty. It can make the difference that keeps a child from going to bed hungry and missing school. It can allow people to access essential healthcare and to adapt more easily to climate-related disasters. Expanding coverage and improving the design and implementation of social protection programmes, such as cash transfers and health insurance, can have a significant impact on the most vulnerable households. Increasingly, where we have sex-disaggregated data, we can see that social protection can deliver specific results depending on your gender, and have a varying impact on gender equality outcomes. It would be convenient to portray gender-responsive programming as easy. It isn’t. But it is possible to do, and it is worth it.For example, in many cases cash transfers have been shown to promote girls’ and women’s empowerment. Transfers increase decision-making power over contraceptive use and reduce some forms of violence or harmful practices – which can have an impact on multiple outcomes for children and adults in the home. However, the evidence is not uniformly positive; in some contexts, the impact of cash on different forms of gender-based violence has been mixed, indicating the need for further research. The SDGs are clear that poverty is not just about income. Progress in gender equality is a critical component of our fundamental rights-based goal of reducing or ending all forms of poverty, and of not thinking of poverty purely as a one-dimensional problem of income. We need to invest in rigorous, high quality evidence to ensure that we understand how to take full advantage of what social protection can achieve for girls and women. Most importantly, we must ensure that we do no harm.After the home was destroyed due to fighting, Esra Runno, along with her family, came from Aleppo to take refuge in Turkey in 2013. Esra is 13 years old and studies in a local school in 6th grade. Her family benefits from the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) project aims to increase the number of refugee children enrolled in and attending school in Turkey.Gender-responsive programming doesn’t happen by accidentNext week marks International Women’s Day, and a year since the inter-agency group of actors on social protection called for greater action to promote gender equality in all of our social protection work. This starts with gender-responsive programming which deliberately responds to the specific needs of adults and children of all genders, assessing the gendered norms, experiences and discriminatory practices, and taking measures to actively address specific needs. That pretty much sounds like a no-brainer, and it is an integral part of UNICEF’s Strategic Plan, where we have committed to “strengthen gender-responsive programming in all areas of UNICEF’s work, recognizing the special challenges faced by girls and women.” But the truth is that most of us need to be very intentional about doing this if we are going to make progress.This is a little awkward, because it would be convenient to portray gender-responsive programming as easy. It isn’t. It’s much easier to just pretend that everyone is the same and gender neutral. But it is possible to do, and it is worth it. Forget gender and we fail the children and communities that we serve, and particularly the most marginalised, because there is no getting away from the fact that different facets of poverty are experienced in gendered ways. Where we respond to gender with understanding and intent, we can deliver more inclusive results that reach more of the most marginalised in health, nutrition, education, sexual and reproductive health rights and gender-based violence. With gender-transformational programming, we can pitch our ambition even higher, to actively shift harmful gender norms in the long-term. How serious are we about stepping up?The time is now for stepping up ambition on this work. That’s because we’ve set in train a lot of work to try and make this difficult task as straight forward as possible. In UNICEF, we are drilling down to make our work towards gender-responsive social protection both intentional and specific. We are: Analysing our 140+ country office social protection programmes, to identify where there is potential to really step up our ambition. Around 20% of country offices are already explicitly aiming to support gender-sensitive, gender-responsive and gender-transformational social protection work, which is a strong foundation to build on. But we know we can do more, and we plan to;Developing accessible and concise tools and guidance where gaps remain, and republicising rather than reinventing the wheel where they already exist, such as this excellent FAO guidance;Showcasing trailblazers who recognise that gender discrimination is fundamentally linked to poverty, and intersects with other characteristics that lead to systemic social exclusion and marginalisation. These trailblazers are already working towards gender-responsive or gender-transformational social protection, and there is much to learn from this work around the world;Working in partnership with national governments, other UN agencies, civil society and other key partners such as DFID and the World Bank, identifying opportunities to work and learn together;Paying attention to what is already out there, like the brilliant research produced by Innocenti, The Transfer Project, ODI and many others;Pooling our collective weight in programmes and research within UNICEF, to shape and roll out the new DFID-funded Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Research Programme on Social Protection, embedding an evidence-into-action approach from inception.Gloria and her mother, Charity. Gloria is a beneficiary of the Service Efficiency and Effectiveness for Vulnerable Children and Adolescents education grant. While Charity is a Social Cash Transfer beneficiary. Ndola, Copperbelt Province, Zambia.Our work will only become easier with the growing evidence base and practical experience at our fingertips. For now, we’ve got to work with what we’ve got, and translate the high-level ambition into the nuts and bolts of our work, adapting as we learn. This can mean a range of things, from: undertaking gender-responsive vulnerability analysis; todrawing on context specific evidence on gender norms to support decisions about design choices, communication plans and risk mitigation strategies; todesigning outcome indicators and M&E systems with gendered risks and opportunities at the heart of our thinking.The alternative is to ignore gender, and risk squandering the opportunity to deliver what is possible for the most marginalised – and even risk doing harm. That’s not a risk we can afford to take. Ruth Graham-Goulder is a Social Policy & Gender Specialist in the Social Policy Section at UNICEF HQ, supporting UNICEF social protection programme design globally and leading on a new organisational workstream on gender-responsive social protection.
Reducing poverty while achieving gender equality: the potential of social protection
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Reducing poverty while achieving gender equality: the potential of social protection

The UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti has launched a new four-year research programme called Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Social Protection (GRASSP), funded by the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID), and other partners. The research programme will examine how gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection can reduce poverty and achieve gender equality sustainably. It will also examine how social protection can better address and prevent stubborn vulnerabilities and inequalities experienced by people simply because of their sex or age. Why GRASSP matters now? The timing of this work could not be more opportune. In 2020 the SDGs enter a decade of acceleration toward the lofty goal of leaving no one behind. Among the many targets we find: end all forms of poverty everywhere (Goal 1), achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (Goal 5), and empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all—irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status (Target 10.2). Five years ago, when the SDGs were launched, the UN General Assembly pledged that steps to ‘follow up and review’ these goals would be ‘evidence informed.’ With ten years to go, and more evidence to build, the GRASSP research programme is well-placed to support these ambitions. GRASSP also begins in a landmark year for other international commitments on gender equality, poverty reduction, and social protection. The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) will be a time for reflection on how Governments have delivered on their commitments to advance the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women, everywhere. The Commission on the Status of Women in March will review and appraise the progress made since, including assessing current challenges affecting implementation. 2020 also marks a year for action as the Economic and Social Council (ESC) called on all States to undertake comprehensive national-level reviews of progress made and challenges encountered since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration. Specifically, the ESC is encouraging UN Regional Commissions to feed into a global review, and has urged national governments to collaborate in this process with all relevant stakeholders—including civil society organizations, community leaders, the private sector, United Nations entities, and academia—so as to benefit from their experience and expertise.Jhuma Akhter (14) at the Maitry Adolescent Club, where teenagers learn life skills after school, in Khulna, Bangladesh.What the evidence does not yet tell us? It is clear that international bodies and national governments are using evidence to strengthen their initiatives and ambitions for achieving gender equity, as well as reducing poverty and vulnerability in a gender and age-sensitive way. This leads to the question, ‘what does the evidence tell us and what do we not yet know?’ During the inception phase for GRASSP, which ran through late 2018 and 2019, the research team at Innocenti compiled a wealth of evidence on gender inequalities. This evidence highlights the unequal burden of poverty on women and girls, how women are lagging behind on labour market outcomes, and the impact of many other adverse socio-economic outcomes, including unequal responsibility for care and domestic work. Across 11 expert think pieces, further evidence shows how social protection can have intended and unintended positive effects on development outcomes, often for women and girls. There is also evidence on how social protection policy design and implementation can be considered more or less gender-sensitive along a gender integration continuum. Despite this learning, much of the evidence, as yet, does not explore the impact of age, when adolescent girls may be direct or indirect recipients of social protection. In order to break the inter-generational and interlinked cycles of gender disadvantage and inequality, we need to know more about these age-sensitive impacts across the life-course for women and girls, including which age groups benefit most from gender-responsive social protection, and how design and implementation can be tailored for them. Implementation is another critical stage in the social protection delivery cycle where we don’t have much evidence. For example, are programmes being delivered in the way they were designed and  do they respond to women’s needs? There is limited evidence on the factors that influence the development of gender-responsive social protection systems, including the political economy needed for reform. While evaluations show the positive effects of social protection, indicators used to assess the transformative potential of social protection are limited. We do not know enough about design and implementation features linked to both positive and negative effects. Furthermore, the role of bureaucrats and frontline workers in shaping outcomes on the ground is well-noted in feminist literature and brings an additional set of measures and opportunities for learning.Mother leaders of a cash transfer programme in the community of Tanandava, MadagascarHow will GRASSP fill these evidence gaps? Over the next four years, GRASSP will fill some of these gaps by working across multiple regions and using a mix of research methods, to capitalize on this demand for evidence and to support action for gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection. Three streams of work will: Reconceptualize the intersection of gender and social protection using a life-course lens, and review the existing literature using this approach;Evaluate the impacts and assess the role of design implementation features in social protection programmes to contribute to gender equality;Unpack the political economy and practicalities of public policy reform involving gender-responsive social protection.GRASSP’s multi-country approach to research compares similar policies and programmes implemented in very different contexts. This improves understanding of the generalisability of good practices, and how these can be scaled within, and transferred between, countries with gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection. The mix of quantitative and qualitative research strategies allows us to not only to understand the incidence and pervasiveness of gender inequalities (and the programmes to address these), but also the lived experiences of individuals, households, policymakers, and other stakeholders either receiving or delivering these policies. GRASSP is a multi-stakeholder partnership between UNICEF country offices, national Governments, universities, international organisations, and donors. This collaboration exploits synergies to advance the gender-responsive social protection research agenda through rigorous evidence to inform decision-making and stimulate debate, with the aim of putting gender equality at the forefront of social protection research, discourse, policy, and practice. We look forward to the work unfolding and engaging with many collaborators and interested researchers, advocates, practitioners, and policy makers as we go along!   Dominic Richardson leads Social Policy and Economic Analysis at UNICEF Innocenti, where he oversees work on cash transfers in sub-Saharan Africa, multiple overlapping deprivation analysis, the Innocenti Report Card Series, and research on family policies and child well-being. Ramya Subrahmanian is Chief of Child Rights and Protection at UNICEF-Innocenti, where she oversees work on migration, violence against children, and child protection.Explore UNICEF Innocenti’s work on Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Social Protection. Read 11 think pieces by gender and social protection experts written to stimulate discussion on the topic.
Raquel López lava la ropa con agua
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¿Son sensibles al género las transferencias monetarias en América Latina?

La división de tareas de cuidado infantil entre madres y padres es desigual incluso en aquellos países donde la perspectiva de género es la principal motivación en el diseño de la política. Por ello, necesitamos preguntarnos: ¿Estamos haciendo lo suficiente para promover la igualdad de género? ¿Cómo las políticas sociales podrían diseñarse mejor para contribuir al cierre de la brecha de género y promover el empoderamiento de mujeres y niñas? ¿De qué manera las políticas sociales pueden incluir en su diseño las necesidades específicas de mujeres y niñas?Recientemente me uní a un equipo de expertos en UNICEF Innocenti para buscar respuestas a estas preguntas, analizando los componentes de género de programas de protección social (PPS) destinados a niñas, niños y a sus hogares. Para llevar a cabo esta labor, analizamos documentos programáticos y reportes de gobiernos, ministerios y otros actores relevantes a nivel nacional e internacional. Utilizando este enfoque, examinamos la medida en que los PPS incorporan el género desde una perspectiva legal. Es importante mencionar que esta metodología no nos permite analizar la cobertura efectiva de los programas, es decir, la implementación de las leyes y políticas seleccionadas. No obstante, evaluar la cobertura legal es fundamental para comprender el PPS en su totalidad, el grado en el que el género se refleja en sus características de diseño y el grado de compromiso del Estado con la igualdad de género en general.En este trabajo, analizamos si los programas seleccionados son sensibles al género utilizando cuatro dimensiones:Marcos legales y políticos en los que está integrado el PPS.Riesgos y desigualdades estructurales abordados en los objetivos del programa.Mecanismos de diseño y entrega, incluidas las condicionalidades.Mecanismos de gobernanza, seguimiento y evaluación.Si bien esta investigación abarca varias regiones y países, en este reporte me enfocaré principalmente en los programas de transferencias monetarias condicionadas (PTMC) en nueve países de América Latina. Los PTMC son pagos en efectivo destinados a personas en situación de pobreza en los que se imponen ciertas condiciones para el cobro del beneficio. Este tipo de protección social es popular en la región, y tiene como objetivo aliviar la pobreza a corto plazo y mejorar la salud y la educación de las niñas y niños, a fin de romper el ciclo intergeneracional de la pobreza en el largo plazo.Agustina Vargas de Esteban, sonriendo, lava platos en el fregadero de la cocina de su casa en el Distrito 7, uno de los barrios más pobres de la ciudad de El Alto, cerca de La Paz, la capital de Bolivia.Algunos hallazgos preliminares¿Los objetivos y los métodos de focalización son sensibles al género?La mayoría de los programas analizados buscan abordar de manera específica la pobreza infantil y a menudo designan a las madres como receptoras principales del PTMC, asumiendo que ellas destinan relativamente más dinero a las necesidades de sus hijas e hijos en comparación con los padres. Algunos programas, como el de Bolivia, tienen el objetivo explícito de brindar cobertura a individuos y hogares que no están cubiertos por ningún otro PPS. Otros programas consideran riesgos y vulnerabilidades, como discapacidades y diversidad de identidades étnico-raciales, y diseñan los programas en consecuencia.Los hallazgos de la investigación realizada sugieren que los métodos de focalización de estos programas no serían sensibles al género. El hecho de que las madres sean quienes reciben la transferencia no los hace receptivos de las necesidades específicas de las mujeres, por el contrario, solo refuerza las expectativas de género hacia ellas, entendidas como principales responsables del cuidado.¿Las condicionalidades y sanciones generan más carga para las mujeres?Las condicionalidades generan mucho debate: las principales críticas cuestionan la imposición de sanciones ante su incumplimiento, y consideran que las mismas asumen que las personas pobres no saben qué es lo mejor para sus hijas/os. Asimismo, la responsabilidad de cumplir con las condiciones impuestas por el programa a menudo recae en las mujeres, generando esto una carga adicional para ellas, mientras que los padres generalmente están ausentes en el diseño de estos PTMC (Cookson, 2018; Molyneux, 2006).En los programas analizados en este trabajo, la mayoría de las condicionalidades están relacionadas con la atención médica y la educación, exigiendo controles médicos obligatorios o determinado porcentaje de asistencia escolar. El incumplimiento de estas condiciones conlleva sanciones o medidas punitivas que resultan en la terminación de la transferencia monetaria inmediatamente (en el caso de Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia y Uruguay) o gradualmente (en Brasil, Ecuador y Perú).Dado que las madres son las principales receptoras de estos beneficios en la mayoría de los programas, los hallazgos de este trabajo parecen sugerir que las condicionalidades y las sanciones podrían sumar una responsabilidad mayor sobre las mujeres. Después de todo, ellas son las que deben asegurarse de cumplir con los requisitos del programa, más allá de la oferta de servicios de salud y educación que haya disponible.Patrones en la programación de protección social sensible al género en nueve países de América Latina ¿Las características de diseño y entrega del programa tienen en cuenta las desigualdades, riesgos y dinámicas de género?Tres programas (Argentina, Chile y Paraguay) reconocen que las mujeres enfrentan mayores riesgos de pobreza y generalmente tienen menos acceso a recursos, tales como tierra o capital. Como consecuencia de esto, estos programas designan a las mujeres en situación de pobreza como las principales beneficiarias. Solo el programa de Argentina reconoce que el cuidado y el trabajo doméstico no remunerado son realizados principalmente por mujeres, señalando que la asistencia escolar y la mejora de la salud de las niñas y niños ampliarían las posibilidades de que las madres busquen trabajo o se desempeñen mejor en la ocupación que ya poseen.Solo dos países (Argentina y Bolivia) ofrecen cobertura para trabajadoras y trabajadores informales, incluyendo trabajadoras/es domésticas/os, desempleadas/os, contribuyentes solteras/os o sin seguro médico. Esto es crítico considerando el alto nivel de informalidad en el mercado laboral en estos países: 77.7% en Bolivia y 48.1% en Argentina en 2018 (ILOSTAT, 2019). Si bien no parece haber una diferencia significativa en el empleo informal de mujeres y hombres en Argentina, este no es el caso en Bolivia, donde el empleo informal es del 80.2% para las mujeres y del 75.5% para los hombres en 2018 (Banco Mundial, 2019).¿Se integra el género en los mecanismos de gobernanza, seguimiento y evaluación del programa?Los mecanismos de monitoreo y gobernanza ayudan a garantizar una programación efectiva, una cobertura adecuada y dan voz a las destinatarias/os del programa. En nuestro estudio, la mayoría de los PPS incluyen alguna forma de reclamo o retroalimentación que informa la evaluación y el rediseño de los programas. Además, en los PPS de Argentina, Brasil, Perú y Uruguay, los mecanismos de monitoreo y evaluación utilizan datos estadísticos desagregados por sexo y edad para hacer el seguimiento del mismo. Sin embargo, en la mayoría de los PTMC parecen faltar indicadores específicos de género, como por ejemplo referidos a los roles de género y al empoderamiento de mujeres y niñas.Los sistemas de gobernanza que incorporan la participación de mujeres ayudan a garantizar que ellas puedan plantear inquietudes y formen parte de la gestión del programa. En Paraguay, las mujeres son elegidas como “lideresas” por otras destinatarias, para crear grupos dentro de la comunidad y actuar como portavoces entre las usuarias e implementadoras/es del PPS. En Perú, las madres líderes ayudan a capacitar a las madres receptoras del beneficio en temas de salud y educación, las alientan a cumplir con las condiciones del programa y actúan como un punto de contacto entre las beneficiarias y gerentes locales. No se han encontrado datos sobre mecanismos de gobernanza para el resto de los programas seleccionados.Próximos pasosEsta investigación es un avance importante para comprender de qué modo se consideran las necesidades específicas de mujeres y niñas en el diseño de los PTMC latinoamericanos. Aunque la cobertura legal nos proporciona una visión general de estos programas, es necesario continuar explorando estos temas para determinar cómo la protección social afecta a mujeres y niñas en la práctica, reforzando los roles tradicionales de género o aumentando su empoderamiento. Además, es importante indagar con mayor profundidad cómo impactan estos programas en los hombres y diversas estructuras domésticas, como parejas del mismo género u hogares LGBTQ+ en general. Esto podría ayudar a cerrar la brecha de evidencia y llevarnos hacia PPS más sensibles al género. Constanza Ginestra se unió a la Oficina de Investigación de UNICEF - Innocenti en mayo de 2019 para trabajar con nuestro equipo en un análisis de género sobre programas de protección social dirigidos a niñas y niños en países de bajos y medianos ingresos, centrándose en América Latina. Aquí, Constanza relata algunos resultados preliminares de la investigación realizada. Para obtener más información sobre el proyecto GRASSP de UNICEF Innocenti, consulte aquí.
Are cash transfers in Latin America gender-sensitive?
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Are cash transfers in Latin America gender-sensitive?

Even in countries where gender equality is a main driver in policy design, the division of childcare among parents is unequal. We need to ask some important questions: Are we doing enough to promote gender equality? How can social policies be better designed to close the gender gap and empower all women and girls? How can social policies include women’s specific needs? I recently joined a team of experts at UNICEF Innocenti to try to answer these questions by analysing the gender aspects of cash transfer programmes targeted at children and their households. We analysed programmatic documents and reports from governments, ministries and other stakeholders at the national and international level to review the extent to which social protection programmes incorporate gender from a legal and policy perspective. However, this method does not allow us to examine effective coverage, or actual implementation of laws and policies. Nonetheless, assessing legal coverage is critical to understand the overall social protection programme, the extent to which gender is reflected in its design features, and the State’s degree of commitment towards gender equality in general. Using four dimensions, we explored whether the selected social protection programmes are gender-sensitive: Legal and policy frameworks into which the social protection programme is embeddedRisks and structural inequalities addressed in the programme objectivesDesign and delivery mechanisms, including conditionalitiesGovernance, monitoring, and evaluation mechanismsWhile the research is cross-regional and cross-country, in this blog, I will focus on preliminary findings for conditional cash transfers (CCTs) in nine countries in Latin America. CCTs are cash payments given to poor people when they meet certain conditions. This type of social protection is popular in the region and aims to alleviate poverty in the short term while improving children’s health and education in order to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty in the long term. Agustina Vargas de Esteban, smiling, washes dishes in the kitchen sink, at home in District 7, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city of El Alto, near La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.Some preliminary findingsAre programme objectives and targeting gender-sensitive? Most programmes look to address child poverty and often assign mothers as recipients of the cash transfer, with the assumption that they spend relatively more on their children's needs compared to male caregivers. Some programmes, such as in Bolivia, have the explicit objective of targeting people who are not covered by any other social protection programme. Others consider intersecting risks and vulnerabilities, such as disabilities and ethnic monitoring, and target programmes accordingly. Overall, the research suggests that targeting methods are not gender-sensitive. Assigning mothers as the transfer recipient does not make the programmes responsive to women’s specific needs. On the contrary, it reinforces gender expectations for mothers as main carers. Do conditionalities and sanctions add more burden on women? Conditionalities are contentious—many critics are opposed to sanctions for not meeting conditions and feel that conditions imply that poor people do not know what is best for their children. The responsibility of meeting conditionalities often falls on women, creating an extra burden for them, while fathers are usually absent in the design of CCTs (Cookson, 2018; Molyneux, 2006). In this study, most conditionalities are related to healthcare and education, such as mandatory medical check-ups or school attendance. Non-compliance of these conditions lead to sanctions or punitive measures resulting in the termination of the cash transfer immediately (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay) or gradually (Brazil, Ecuador, Peru). Since mothers are the recipients of these benefits in most programmes, conditionalities and sanctions can risk putting more burden on women who must meet conditions regardless of the availability of health and education services. Patterns in gender-sensitive social protection programming in nine countries in Latin America.Are design and delivery features based on gender risks, inequalities, and dynamics? Three programmes (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay) recognise that women face a greater risk of poverty and have generally less access to resources, such as land or capital. In light of this, these programmes assign women as transfer recipients. Only Argentina’s programme acknowledges that unpaid care and domestic work are primarily carried out by women, highlighting that school attendance and improved children’s health broaden the possibilities for mothers to look for work or perform better in their jobs. Only two countries (Argentina, Bolivia) include coverage for informal workers, including domestic workers, unemployed people, single taxpayers, or those without health insurance. This is critical considering the high level of informality in the labour market in these countries: 77,7% in Bolivia and 48,1% in Argentina (ILOSTAT, 2019). While there is no significant difference between female and male informal employment in Argentina, in Bolivia informal employment is 80,2% for women and 75,5% for men (World Bank, 2019). Is gender integrated into governance, monitoring, and evaluation? Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms help ensure effective programming, including adequate coverage and giving a voice to recipients. In our study, most programmes include some form of grievance or feedback mechanism that informs policy assessment and reform. In Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay, the monitoring and evaluation frameworks use sex and age-disaggregated data. However, there is a lack of gender-specific indicators, such as gender norms and women’s empowerment, in most of the cash transfer programmes. Governance systems that integrate women’s participation help ensure that women raise concerns and are part of the programme management. In Paraguay, women are elected as leaders (lideresas) by other recipients, to create groups within the community and act as a spokesperson between the users and the programme implementers. In Peru, the lead mothers (madres líderes) help train recipient mothers in health and education issues, encourage them to meet the programme conditions, and act as a point of contact between the recipients and the local managers. For the rest of the countries, no data was found on governance mechanisms. What’s next? This research is an important step towards understanding how women and girls’ needs are considered in the design of Latin American CCTs. Although legal coverage provides us with an overall picture of these programmes, future research is needed to determine how social protection affects women and girls in practice, including reinforcing traditional gender roles or increasing empowerment.  Furthermore, research on men or diverse household structures, such as same-sex couples or LGBTQ+ households in general, could help close the evidence gap and lead us towards more gender equal social protection.   Constanza Ginestra joined the UNICEF Innocenti as an intern in May 2019 to work with our team on a gender analysis of social protection programmes targeted to children in low- and middle-income countries, focusing on Latin America. Here, Constanza summarises some preliminary results of the research. For further information on UNICEF Innocenti’s GRASSP project, see here.
Can social protection be a driver of gender equality?
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Can social protection be a driver of gender equality?

Social protection programmes have proven to be effective in fighting poverty in various dimensions, but the question remains as to how these same instruments can address other drivers of vulnerability, like gender inequality. Girls and women living in poverty face additional barriers which men and boys do not, driven by conservative social and gender norms and limited access to education and the workforce. As UNICEF Innocenti embarks on its new five-year research programme to begin to answer questions on gender-responsive and age sensitive social protection (GRASSP), we asked researchers and practitioners in the fields of gender and social protection to weigh in on research priorities. We received survey responses from 76 experts around the globe, from both the academic and policy-making spheres. They emphasized key evidence gaps and challenges relating to the gender-responsiveness of different types of social protection. Below, we highlight some of the key takeaways from the survey. "Measure impact by sex and age” While there is limited evidence on the topic, respondents praised the rigour and quality of emerging research and initiatives. A crucial challenge to building the evidence base is the lack of sex- and age-disaggregated data from programmes. Without this, identifying the social protection policies that aid women’s empowerment and lead to gender-equality is no more than an educated guess. "Optimise evaluations to pinpoint key mechanisms of change”Respondents mentioned the lack of a well-constructed and detailed theory of change. Conducting more complex evaluations can aid learning, while using qualitative methods can better contextualise and help bridge gaps, particularly as results on gender-related outcomes are often mixed. Holding her young child in her arms, a woman uses jerrycans to collect filtered chlorinated water for drinking purpose from a UNICEF supported water point outside village Sami Mahmood Hamid in Rosaries Locality on the bank of the River Nile in the Blue Nile State in Sudan"Consensus on what is meant by ‘gender’” Respondents noted a lack of consensus on what gender and gender-responsiveness entail, with some being critical of the field for having a narrow view of gender as a ‘women-only’ issue, undermining the crucial relational aspect of gender inequality. "Political buy-in is crucial but lacking”A lack of commitment from policy makers and officials across all levels of government limits much-needed resources for evidence building. This lack of buy-in may be due to a narrow view of social protection as aimed exclusively at poverty-reduction and correlated outdated views of poverty. Others see this as a lack of commitment to gender equality itself, with decision-makers prioritising more short-term objectives and their own traditional values—or those of their community—instead. "Better understanding of the role of gender norms is the number one evidence generation priority” Addressing gender norms and practices is high priority for 61% of respondents. While this goal must be placed at the centre of the gender-responsive agenda, we also need to better understand the limitations that this may place on ongoing social protection interventions. Women’s role within the household and their families, their limited access to the labour market (both formal and informal), and the need for contextual specificity were listed as priorities for easing a change in restrictive practices. "Measure empowerment properly”Empowerment was the second highest priority for respondents (59.3%). Some urged for the field to move beyond purely economic measures of empowerment and others emphasised the need to adequately balance empowerment with protection needs. "Labour & childcare policies top social protection policy priorities”Labour policies that help people find work (45.8%) and the availability of affordable childcare (40.7%) are the policy types that experts most believe we should better understand. These results underline the need to economically empower women, rather than reproduce current social conditions that bind many to unpaid care. "Tailor design to context and integrate with existing services”When asked about design features, ‘gender responsive work arrangements’ (e.g. adequate maternity leave) was the top evidence generation priority (67.8% high priority), followed by ‘prioritisation of linkages to productive, protective, and health services’ (57.6%). These results reflect the value placed on integrating social protection into broader government provision systems to improve efficacy and secure sustainability. The importance of context was reiterated, with some highlighting the need to better anticipate and minimise unintended consequences, such as conditionalities that may limit people’s capacity to work. Priorities to address evidence gaps in gender outcomes.What next? Together with a think piece series by leading experts in the field and an experts’ workshop, this survey has helped refine the GRASSP research programme. In better understanding gender inequality as a driver of vulnerability and poverty for women, we can explore whether particular social protection features can be finetuned to achieve gender-transformative goals. This survey of experts reveals that we need to better understand local gender norms and how labour and childcare policies improve women’s access to the workforce and overall empowerment. To do so, we must disaggregate impact by sex, use qualitative research to illuminate change, and focus our evidence generation efforts on gender norms and empowerment.   Alessandra Ipince is now a research consultant working on adolescence, internet use, research methods at UNICEF Innocenti. UNICEF Innocenti’s new research programme on gender-responsive and age sensitive social protection (GRASSP) is funded by DFID, the Italian government, and other core UNICEF partners.
The time is now! Preventing violence against women and children requires quality evidence.
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The time is now! Preventing violence against women and children requires quality evidence.

Reflections from the world’s premier conference on ending violence against women and violence against children from the Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum 2019  Nearly 800 researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and activists descended on Cape Town, South Africa for the world’s key conference on ending violence against women (VAW), violence against children (VAC) and other forms of violence stemming from gender inequality— the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI)’s biennial forum 21-25 October, 2019. The energy behind the #TimeIsNow movement to end such violence was channeled into themes including social change, linkages between VAW and VAC, importance of scale, the Sustainable Development Goals, new technologies and more. UNICEF was there to share and meet researchers working on both VAC, as well as VAW, and help build bridges between the two communities. On the heels of a packed week, including stimulating research, networking and agenda setting, we asked three of our experts about key takeaways or points of reflection from the forum. What were our researchers' takeaways? Read their reflections and cues for next steps: Alessandra GuedesManager, Gender and Development Research at UNICEF Innocenti and Co-Chair of the SVRI Leadership Council@AlesscguedesWe can prevent violence!: Although many of us have repeated this phrase numerous times, we have often been met with skepticism and occasionally have been concerned ourselves about the feasibility of documenting measurable reductions of the prevalence of violence within our projects’ lifetime. How reassuring, then, to hear that multiple initiatives have been able to decrease levels of violence within reasonable timeframes, as shown by Rachel Jewkes’ presentation summarizing evidence generated by the Global Program “What works to prevent violence against women and girls?” Now we must ensure the evidence is put to good use, with a sense of urgency that is commensurate with the size of the problem. As DFID’s Emily Esplen emphasized in her closing remarks, evidence alone is not enough, “we need to advocate to build outrage.”Quality is of the essence: As evidence emerges about effective interventions, it is tempting to want to scale these up, but we must not lose sight of the principles and values that made the methodologies effective in the first place. It was repeatedly emphasized that interventions are highly dependent on the specific activities, quality of the training provided to those who are implementing them and such training requires time and resources, both human and financial. Ellen Bajenja and Tina Musuya made a great presentation highlighting additional insights from the Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP), including the need to prioritize accountability to communities.Let’s be creative! While we must look for ways to expand and scale up interventions that have been found to be effective, it is crucial that we don’t stymie creativity by over relying in a small number of tried interventions. Donors have a key responsibility to continue to support innovative strategies to end VAW and VAC.Lusajo KajulaSocial Policy Analyst, Social and Economic Policy at UNICEF Innocenti@sajokmIdeas that sound good need to be measured. It is always inspiring to meet like-minded researchers who share their hypotheses and research methodologies on reducing VAW and VAC. It is even more inspiring to meet and listen to different practitioners share their experience from specific programs that address issues related to VAW and VAC. However, while attending different panels and sessions, something became clear to me. I heard from quite a few practitioners who questioned the “lengthy” and sometimes cumbersome processes that are involved with evaluations. I left the forum with the realisation of major responsibility for us as researchers to support and engage programs in the use of evidence to inform policies. Evidence improves practice and therefore a win-win situation for programs!Voices of researchers in the Global South need to be amplified. Despite specific efforts from SVRI to promote inclusivity, we are still missing sufficient involvement at the forum from practitioners and activists from the Global South. The next stage of evidence generation needs diverse groups of women with research from the Global South collaborating on violence prevention studies. This will improve our state of the evidence with a lens that compares the global vs. local gaze. It is also a good opportunity to learn from each other, regarding our similarities and differences. Several questions come to mind – how similar (or different) is the face of VAW/VAC across the Global South? What tools can we borrow from each other in our fight to unroot the deep-rooted issues that are associated with VAC/VAW?We need to invest in social norm transformation. Those who attended or watched the opening plenary may agree with me that it was emotional. Two survivors of intimate partner violence, Josina Machel (Mozambique) and Malebogo (Max) Molefhe (Botswana), shared how they had to fight the system to get the justice they deserved after suffering life-changing injuries from their abusers. According to Josina “Women wake up every day and they're faced with rape, beatings and PTSD just like soldiers at war.” The need for systems that address gender norm transformation has never been greater. We need to identify how norms that protect VAW/VAC serve or contradict our communities' values. Amber PetermanConsultant, Social and Economic Policy at UNICEF Innocenti and Research associate professor at the University of North Carolina@a_petermanMeasurement matters: Maybe it is the data geek in me, but I was quite excited to see a resurgence in thinking about how we can better measure and analyze violence-related outcomes and trajectories. A presentation by Lori Heise stressed that the way we think about program success, relies critically on how we analyze outcome data, what we consider abuse, and if we interrogate how programs affect not only occurrence, but also severity, frequency of violence. There were also intriguing debates around data on couple concordance/discordance of violence reporting, an area which the field is only now starting to grabble with—given an emerging generation of evaluations which have explicitly collected data on couples. I expect lots of innovation in the coming years on measurement, and look forward to new insights gained.Going to scale: There was a lot of (welcomed) emphasis on scale, and the need for innovative programming that we not only know works, but that can reach large populations. Some promising examples presented include social protection, school-based programming and mass media or mobile applications – accompanied by the theme of costing from pilot to national scale up. We need more positive examples of programming across different platforms, including within employment (work) based programs, particularly those that are tested with national Governments if we want to leverage economies of scale for prevention efforts. One example of this is the cash transfer and IPV reseach collaborative which Innocenti is part of, which is exploring how to leverage cash transfers at scale for violence reduction.All hands on deck: Attending a forum with such a wide diversity of actors, helps us understand that GBV is not an issue for one organization or one set of stakeholders—it is everyone’s issue. If we want to end violence, everyone has a role to play. It is encouraging to see non-traditional fields attending the forum and thinking creatively how GBV mitigation and prevention components can be integrated into sectors as wide ranging as climate change and environmental programming, to sport and social policy. The most exciting work in my opinion comes from inter-disciplinary and inter-sectorial collaborations—I’m looking forward to more of this (and more Economists, Political Scientists and Psychologists attending the forum in two years!). SVRI 2019 ended with a big bang and left us pondering how to advance gender equality, social justice and violence prevention through research. We feel optimistic that “We know more than before” (Claudia Garcia-Moreno), and that we seem to be “on the cusp of change” (Tina Musuya). Further reading: Bridging the gaps: a global review of intersections of violence against women and violence against childrenCash Plus Model Improving Adolescent Wellbeing with EvidenceBreaking the Cycle: Understanding and addressing the intersections of violence against children and violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean
Research on humanitarian social protection is not only possible, but desperately needed
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Research on humanitarian social protection is not only possible, but desperately needed

Rigorous research in humanitarian emergencies is not only feasible but also necessary to determine what constitutes effective assistance in these settings. This column introduces a Special Issue of the Journal of Development Studies which demonstrates that research establishing causal effects is vital for the design of efficient and effective social protection in settings of fragility and displacement. 
Moving the needle on mental health for young people
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Moving the needle on mental health for young people

Leading Minds Call on Global Action to Support and Protect Mental Well-Being for Youth  The following blog is the transcript of the closing remarks for the Leading Minds 2019 Conference for Children and Young People on Mental Health by Chantelle Booysen, Global Mental Health Advocate and Social Impact Entrepreneur. In the last 50-60 years UNICEF, WHO & member states have worked tirelessly in reducing infant mortality rates and succeeding at it. In fact, one could go so far as to say that this is one of the major development-success stories of our time.The thing is though, these surviving infants, who you’ve fought for, and saved, have now grown into children, adolescents and young people that are now in desperate need to have something to stay alive for.Our growth in population also comes at a devastating cost – we damage the planet and the environment; we develop diseases that become ever more difficult to cure; and we end up in hopeless spaces that are immensely difficult to navigate.This blend of very intentional successes coupled with unforeseen and unprepared consequences are what we are facing when we are talking mental health for children and young people.And this is where a conference like Leading Minds, with the influence and power in this room, can spark this intentional action with stakeholders to drive a new success story. A success story that is driven by robust, authentic and exploratory conversations.Different levels of communication are necessary in order for our children and young people to survive and ultimately thrive. I also want to highlight that it will not take only one – or two – organizations, with one solution to fix this problem, but a collaborative approach with enabled environments to remedy this mental health epidemic.Chantelle Booysen delivers the closing remarks at the Leading Minds Conference for Children and Young People on Mental Health, 9 November 2019.Our biology is but one element in an array of elements determining our mental health or ill-health - our environment, our socio-economic status, our placement or displacement, our interaction with violence, our loneliness – these are all real things that affect much of our ability to be mentally healthy.Listening to various accounts of people speaking at this conference, and particularly our young leaders, some very clear themes came up that we should action on.I would like to introduce a policy brief titled Young people will transform Global Mental Health. This policy brief was developed by the Young Leaders for the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health, as part of the #mymindourhumanity dissemination campaign, a campaign that is supported by the Wellcome Trust, Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. More importantly, the development of this policy brief was led by young people, with lived experience that does doing work at community level too.As the lead author of this policy brief, together with four other leaders, we used evidence-based research from the Commission’s report to address three key recommendations. These recommendations, although they did not capture all of the key thoughts here today, certainly formed a foundation for youth mental health in a rather practical way for governments to act and react.Chantelle Booysen presented three quick wins for mental health for young people as part of her closing remarks at the Leading Minds Conference for Children and Young People on 9 November 2019.These recommendations are what I would call “QUICK WINS”, that governments can implement with the guidance and pressure of WHO and UNICEF:To ensure full and direct participation of young people and people with lived experience at the beginning, middle and end of policy and initiatives involving adolescent and child mental health;To increase investment in prevention and early intervention, and this we have seen in the form of direct interventions, implement effective social policies that address social factors that influence mental health during developmentally sensitive periods, including poverty, gender discrimination and violence;To improve and support mental health literacy, promote self-care and connect access to emergency services in all education systems. This can be done by focusing on skills training, screening for at-risk young people and the education of teachers, primary care physicians and media. Integrated youth mental health or brain health curricula should be integrated in the same way as physically active programmes.There are many other points that are VERY important, but I would like to highlight the following points that came out of the Leading Minds conference that needs a critical lens, is:The need for evidence-based initiatives and for institutions, governments and global custodians of well-being of children and adolescents to financially support youth to develop good evidence and financially support them in that process. This is even more important in the global South where only 5% of global research on youth and adolescents account for these regions.Bridging supportive tools and platforms between fast moving innovations by young people trying to fill the void of lack of services and the slow movement of traditional and formal structures.They say humans change slowly and incrementally, over time – but right now we need to be the wind, that forces the sails of the boat to change direction.These points also highlight where leadership is failing young people. Young people are protesting in Hong Kong, in Beirut, in Algeria, to name a few. Does it mean that the only way that young people will be heard is through strike action?Does it mean that we let people rest over the weekend, after #Fridays4Future just so we can continue the protest first thing Monday morning? Should we call it #MondayFutureMoods or #nomoremondayblues?Time has come for those advocating for mental health and wellbeing to scale up our asks, to be more unreasonable and bolder with our requests. For too long we have been silent and felt undermined within the global health setting. The needle needs to shift and it won’t shift without unreasonable demands in order to settle reasonable action.They say humans change slowly and incrementally, over time – but right now we need to be the wind, that forces the sails of the boat to change direction.What will it take for every not-for-profit initiative to include additional funding requests toward mental health checks?What will it take for every for-profit organisation to allocate additional funding to mental health checks and access to services?What will it take for governments and member states to allocate funds to incorporate and include mental health services in every national, regional or municipal departments?And what will it take for philanthropists, donors and social funders to include the requirement and provide additional funding for mental checks and provisions for all interventions funded?I want to end with the following by addressing the white (and blue) elephant in the room: STIGMA, stigma in funding allocation, stigma in policies, stigma in inclusion of lived experience, stigma in every sphere of society.Only once governments, funders, organizations and companies really take mental health seriously, will there be a shift in stigma and its impact in communities.Only once people feel truly supported and protected can we begin to eliminate stigma-related behavior in our society.Thank you.Chantelle Booysen  (@channy_bird) is Global Mental Health Advocate and Social Impact Entrepreneur and a Youth Leader at the 2019 Leading Minds Conference for Children and Young People, co-hosted by UNICEF and WHO.
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