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Maja Gavrilovic

Consultant (Former title)

Maja Gavrilovic is a qualitative researcher in the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Maja joined Innocenti in August 2018 from FAO, where she has led the analytical and policy-related work on gender-sensitive social protection, and ‘cash plus’ programming in rural development contexts. Prior to FAO, she has carried out qualitative research consultancies for UNICEF, DFID, Save the Children, and UN Women on poverty and vulnerability assessments, maternal and child health, and child-sensitive social protection in various countries across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. From 2013-14, she supported the Government of The Gambia to develop its first National Social Protection Policy 2015-2025. Currently, Maja leads the qualitative components of impact evaluations of cash plus programmes in Ethiopia and Mozambique.

Publications

Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: Qualitative midline evaluation of the ISNP in Amhara
Publication

Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: Qualitative midline evaluation of the ISNP in Amhara

Integrated social protection programmes are increasingly being pursued as more effective and efficient ways to improve children’s health and nutrition outcomes.
Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: A qualitative mid-line evaluation of the Integrated Safety Net Programme in Amhara
Publication

Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: A qualitative mid-line evaluation of the Integrated Safety Net Programme in Amhara

Integrated social protection programmes are increasingly being pursued as more effective and efficient ways to improve children’s health and nutrition outcomes.
Child Marriage and Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program: Analysis of protective pathways in the Amhara region
Publication

Child Marriage and Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program: Analysis of protective pathways in the Amhara region

Emerging evidence suggests that social protection programmes can have a positive role in delaying marriage for girls. But the pathways and design features by which programmes may influence child marriage outcomes remain unknown. This mixed-methods study explores whether and how the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) in Ethiopia, given its national reach and potential to address poverty, can also affect child marriage practice. It draws on descriptive quantitative and qualitative data from an ongoing impact evaluation of the Integrated Safety Net Program (ISNP) pilot in the Amhara region. It finds that PSNP, through an economic channel, is effective in reducing financial pressures on families to marry off girls and in improving girls’ education opportunities. Income-strengthening measures must, however, be accompanied by complementary efforts – including girls’ empowerment, awareness-raising and legal measures – to transform deep-rooted social and gender norms and attitudes that perpetuate the harmful practice of child marriage.
A Rapid Review of Economic Policy and Social Protection Responses to Health and Economic Crises and Their Effects on Children: Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic response
Publication

A Rapid Review of Economic Policy and Social Protection Responses to Health and Economic Crises and Their Effects on Children: Lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic response

This rapid review seeks to inform initial and long-term public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by assessing evidence on past economic policy and social protection responses to health and economic crises and their effects on children and families. The review focuses on virus outbreaks/emergencies, economic crises and natural disasters which, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, were rapid in onset, had wide-ranging geographical reach, and resulted in disruption of social services and economic sectors without affecting governance systems. Lessons are also drawn from the HIV/AIDS pandemic due to its impact on adult mortality rates and surviving children.

Articles

Enhancing adolescents’ capabilities through adolescent- and gender-responsive social protection
Article

Enhancing adolescents’ capabilities through adolescent- and gender-responsive social protection

Blogs

From Crisis Comes Opportunity: Spain’s Basic Income Response to COVID-19
Blog

From Crisis Comes Opportunity: Spain’s Basic Income Response to COVID-19

Spain has been hard hit by Covid-19, both in terms of high death toll and worsening economic conditions. Government lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus left millions of households without earnings or temporary unemployed. A recent report anticipates a 13% decline in GDP in the worst-case scenario. This is a worrying prediction for a country characterised by high unemployment and high levels of extreme poverty, even before the crisis. But from this adversity comes an opportunity. The Government of Spain recently launched a national ‘Basic Income scheme’ (‘Ingreso Minimo Vital’), for extremely poor households and vulnerable groups. The means-tested programme is expected to reach approximately 2.5 million people, who will receive between €462 and €1,015 per month per household depending on the number of household members. Total household income and wealth determines whether a household receives the benefit, and applicants should be between 23 and 65 years of age and have legal residence in Spain of at least one year. There is also a condition of being registered as a job seeker. The programme is expected to cost €3,000 million. Protecting whom?Many countries have turned to social protection in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and direct cash transfers are one of the most effective measures for vulnerable families with children. While basic income had been on the policy agenda since 2016, the crisis incentivised the government to speed-up its introduction as living standards rapidly deteriorated following the outbreak.  As opposed to many countries who have introduced emergency cash transfers, Spain opted for a permanent basic income, which will remain after the current emergency and can be considered a commitment to long-term sustainability and better responsiveness for future crises. However, a temporary cash transfer reaching the most affected by the crisis would have enabled families to access the benefits faster while giving more time to the Ministry of Social Security to design this complex policy. Pro-poor social protection in Spain had previously been underfunded with low coverage. With an estimated 5.4% of the Spanish population living in extreme poverty, the high transfer value and national coverage of the new basic income has the potential to substantially reduce poverty and transform children’s lives, who make up about half of the estimated beneficiaries. However, this policy is not universal in nature, and some of the most vulnerable groups (such as migrants, youth under 23 years living alone, and those with difficulties registering as job seekers) will be excluded. Ruben (4) memorizes the names of sea animals with his mother while painting with water colors during the COVID-19 lockdown in Madrid.Design mattersInnovative design features characterise the new policy.  For example, ex-ante identification of beneficiaries has been adopted to improve targeting and efficacy. Moreover, while income from 2019 is used to determine who receives the benefit, it is also possible to apply if income up to June 2020 was below the equivalent annual threshold to be able to reach those who lost their income due to the corona crisis. The basic income is also designed partly with gender in mind. It explicitly considers the income needs of very vulnerable women and girls, including victims of sexual trafficking or domestic violence, by waiving the conditions needed to apply for benefits (such as applying as a household and being registered as a job seeker). This is particularly important as this crisis exacerbates gender vulnerabilities, with women losing their jobs, gaining additional care responsibilities, and potentially experiencing violence in the home. That said, the family-friendly and gender-responsive aspects of the policy could be strengthened by linking beneficiaries to complementary services, including child care support. The difficulties of incentivising work in a country with low paid jobsIn high income countries, where social assistance transfers are close to the minimum wage, a common worry among policymakers is that social protection can disincentivise people to work, even though this is not supported by consistent evidence. To encourage people to work when possible, the scheme does not count income earned under very short contracts when determining income eligibility, and benefits are reduced by less than the increase in earnings if a beneficiary starts working (the specific thresholds have not been announced yet, and this is a key component of the policy). This is an important feature, especially for single parent households where childcare incurs a significant cost and in countries (like Spain) where minimum wage is low so there is little incentive to take up employment if receiving social benefits. On the other hand, the scheme could encourage some to work in the informal sector so as not to declare income. An opportunity to mend a fragmented systemIn contrast to most European countries, Spain does not have a national social assistance benefit aimed at poverty reduction. Instead, this is the responsibility of regional governments, leading to decentralised, unequal, and highly heterogeneous programmes. The new basic income will have the same requirements throughout Spain. However, it is not clear whether this will complement or replace the existing programmes. Parallel systems may result in spending inefficiencies given that the poverty targeted regional benefits are not considered for the basic income application.   As the COVID-19 emergency has caused much hardship, the recently adopted basic income is seen as an opportunity to reform a social protection system that was traditionally not pro-poor. Spain’s new basic income was quickly approved by Parliament, in a moment where political polarisation is at its highest. Its thoughtful design, some gender considerations in mind, and constant monitoring planned to improve its effectiveness make this policy promising. The exclusion of highly vulnerable groups such as migrants and youth can impede the progress in ending poverty though. Having well-designed work incentives features (including childcare costs) and achieving cooperation between the central and regional governments will be key for its success. Jennifer Waidler and Maja Gavrilovic are Social and Economic Policy consultants with UNICEF Innocenti.   Explore our research on the impact of COVID-19 on children.
Mind the gender gap: How can a gender-norm lens improve social protection outcomes for adolescents?
Blog

Mind the gender gap: How can a gender-norm lens improve social protection outcomes for adolescents?

Since adolescence is a highly vulnerable period of rapid physiological, biological, and psychological change, researchers and development partners are increasingly asking how social protection can facilitate safer transitions to adulthood, and what additional factors shape these transitions for youth.Vulnerabilities related to adverse outcomes in adolescence are often shaped by gender norms, which can constrain the opportunities available to adolescent girls and jeopardize their health. Our research looks at how social protection programs have the potential to transform the lives of participants if they address these vulnerabilities and structural barriers.Looking at genderOne type of structural barrier is systematic exclusion from services or opportunities due to social class, gender or caste. Discriminatory gender and social norms, can also act as structural drivers of vulnerability among girls, as they perpetuate harmful socio-cultural practices, such as early marriage and gender-based violence. In order to have transformative effects, as they relate to gender norms, social protection would need to have impacts, which promote more equitable gender roles and relations.Social protection definedSocial protection broadly encompasses the sets of programs and policies that aim to reduce poverty, exclusion and vulnerability. Social protection includes, but isn't limited to cash transfers (child or disability grants, pensions, etc.), in-kind transfers of food and other items, waivers for schooling or health-related fees, and insurance schemes, which typically play a protective or preventive role, by either responding to adversity or shocks experienced by poor households (protective), or aiming to prevent future harm by bolstering households’ ability to cope with future shocks such as loss of income or unexpected flooding (preventive).Transitions to adulthood“Safe” transitions can be defined as freedom from violence and hazardous labor, having access to schooling and health services, experiencing positive mental health, and delaying pregnancy and marriage, among other positive outcomes.What is the existing evidence on how social protection, and cash transfers in particular, are helping to change gender norms, as they relate to adolescents? This was among the questions asked when experts convened in London on September 10, 2018, at an event organized by the Overseas Development Institute, UCL Institute of the Americas, and Gender & Adolescence Global Evidence (GAGE) consortium, and the ALIGN project. Other questions that participants grappled with included:How can a ‘gender-norms lens’ be integrated in the existing social protection policy and programming?Can a gender norms lens help advance a gender responsive social protection agenda?Is social protection really the best mechanism to address social and gender norms?Is it cost effective to influence gender norms through social protection?What are the trade-offs of addressing (or not) gender norms through social protection programming?As researchers based at the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti working on the Transfer Project  — a joint collaboration between UNICEF, FAO and the University of North Carolina, focused on generating evidence on social protection and facilitating its uptake — the authors of this blog participated in this event. Here are some of our own reflections on discussions generated during this event and our thoughts for moving the agenda forward.Social protection has the potential to transform gender norms and relations through the following pathways:decreasing gender inequalities in schooling attainment;promoting positive attitudes around how girls are valued by their families and communities;promoting women’s financial inclusion (that is, registering a bank account in women’s name to enable her to accumulate savings and grow a business);expanding women’s social support, economic networks, and participation in the community;reducing violence in the home, which generates a cycle of violence as children are exposed and replicate that behavior in adulthood;promoting more equitable distribution of domestic work between women and men.How are social protection programmes targeting or inclusive of adolescence? from UNICEF Office of Research - InnocentiNevertheless, cash transfer programs are not necessarily gender transformative, and they may reproduce discriminatory gender norms and practices, aggravating inequalities between the sexes. For instance, the conditions or “co-responsibilites” that female care providers are expected to fulfill to receive benefits can reinforce gender stereotypes around women’s sole responsibility for caretaking, ignoring their economic responsibilities, and cutting into their available time, and increasing girls’ work burdens, who tend to substitute the work of their mothers.Adolescents are rarely the primary focus of government-run social protection programs, but such programs can provide opportunities to leverage impacts for adolescents. Many social protection programs are aimed at investing in early childhood development, and “breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty.” Numerous programs target large numbers of poor households with adolescents living in them, and adolescents are key to breaking this inter-generational cycle as they transition to adulthood. This creates an opening to boost impacts of social protection programs for adolescents, by mainstreaming adolescent lens into policy and programming, and providing complementary services, targeted to adolescents, to improve their health, skills, and knowledge.Programs that focus on attitudes and empowerment of individual girls without addressing discriminatory attitudes and practices in the larger community or broader structural barriers, are unlikely to have transformative effects. Many or most of those girls will continue to live in the same communities that limit their opportunities in the first place. They may continue to face limited access to schooling, employment, or financial inclusion, and pressure to marry early.Proposed strategies need to be practical, feasible, and matched to government priorities and institutional capacities and resources. Social norm change interventions are resource intensive and time consuming. Researchers and practitioners cannot be over-ambitious in terms of what social protection (on its own) can achieve. Further, strategies need to be supported by broader socio-economic and legislative policy frameworks.Finally, strategic decisions need to be informed by policy analysis and evidence. On both the research and program sides, a combination of concrete actions can be adopted to push this agenda forward:Adopt a long-term vision and a sequenced approach to programming: This may require starting from easier issues and progressively moving towards more complex normative goals.Undertake formative research to understand how social and gender norms affect adolescent behaviors and outcomes and then re-adjust program objectives accordingly. Existing design features can be tweaked to achieve transformative objectives (for example, larger transfer size for adolescents to combat increasing opportunity cost of schooling over work, adolescent-specific messaging, among others).Consider “cash plus” programming: Link adolescents in cash transfer participating households to existing services, such as sexual and reproductive health information and services, treatment and testing for HIV, or provide complementary programming, such as vocational training, financial inclusion and e-banking, mentorship schemes and safe spaces.Build staff capacity: Paying attention to the key cadre tasked with making inter-sectoral linkages on the ground, such as social welfare and monitoring officers.Measure change: Use a combination of impact evaluations, process evaluation, and qualitative research to help understand 1) how norms affect program impacts of social protection programs and 2) the role of social protection (and complementary schemes) in changing gender norms, and how changes *actually* happen.Facilitate evidence uptake: Use the evidence to engage with policymakers and communities to build their support for transformative adolescent-focused interventions, and advocate for reaching the ‘hardest to reach’ adolescents.  Maja Gavrilovic is a Research Analyst in the Social & Economic Policy Section at UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, where she conducts research with the Transfer Project.Tia Palermo is a Social Policy Specialist in the Social & Economic Policy Section at UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, where she conducts research with the Transfer Project.The Transfer Project is working to provide rigorous evidence on programme impacts in an effort to inform future programme design and scale-up. For more information on the Transfer Project’s research on cash transfers, we invite you to read our research briefs here or follow us on Twitter @TransferProjct