Gender and cash transfers: Implications of intrahousehold decision making on nutrition of women and children in Ethiopia

This paper presents the analysis and findings of a qualitative study on Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme. Specifically, it focuses on the Integrated Nutrition Social Cash Transfer (IN-SCT) pilot programme funded by Irish Aid and implemented by UNICEF in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region of Ethiopia. The research was conducted in two districts (Halaba and Shashego) in the SNNP region. The study explored how cash transfer conditionalities and targeting influence intrahousehold decision making and examined the implications of the same on the nutrition of pregnant and lactating women (PLWs) and children under two. The data presented in the paper is based on individual interviews with married couples in 21 households and 10 key informants, and two focus group discussions. The study found that while both spouses are eligible to receive the cash transfers, it is mainly the husbands who collect, indicating that women have limited access to the cash transfer resources. The study also found that women bear the main responsibility for observing the ‘soft’ conditionalities of cash transfer programming, thus reinforcing existing gender norms of women being responsible for care functions in the home. Using dietary diversity and meal frequency as indications of nutrition adequacy, the diet consumed by PLWs and children under the age of two was found to be inadequate. Therefore, while most couples indicated that they decide together on how to spend the cash transfers, it was evident that PLWs had limited control over this decision making in a way that can positively influence their own nutrition and that of their children. The study concludes that the interaction of the PSNP targeting and ‘soft’ conditionalities with pre-existing gender norms influences intrahousehold decision making, affecting the nutrition of PLWs and children under two. The study recommends exploring opportunities for enhancing women’s access and control over cash transfer resources particularly during pregnancy and lactating periods.