By Charlotte Maugham, DAI, Knowledge Management and Learning Lead for the STAAR Facility.


The new STAAR Facility has a special focus on helping governments and their partners with embedding sensitivity to the different needs of women and girls into social protection programmes – and the architecture that underpins them.


Risks, opportunities, and vulnerabilities experienced by people throughout their lives are heavily influenced by gender: Think of the disproportionate rate of girls not in school, for example, the numbers of women juggling unpaid care work with paid jobs, or the differential impacts of climate change on women and men. This leads to entrenched inequalities and perpetuates poverty. Social Protection has real potential to address the drivers of gender inequality as well as poverty – closing gender gaps in education, health, and economic opportunities, and promoting resilience and empowerment. Predictable access to support across the life course, empowers women and girls to navigate foreseeable and unexpected risks throughout their lives. And can help them to overcome deeply ingrained disparities.


How can we do better social protection programming to support gender equality and empowerment?

Programmes can (and should!) be designed or strengthened using a gender lens – examining how each element of the programme can best integrate gender equality considerations. For example, when thinking through how a social protection programme might support girls’ education, it is important to ensure poverty and vulnerability assessments map girls’ and boys’ access to and success in education.

But gender responsiveness goes beyond programmes – the whole architecture of the social protection system needs to be understood through a gender lens (see figure 1). Inherent barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing and benefitting from social protection exist throughout the system. Removing these (often invisible) obstacles starts with scrutinising the system – from the legal foundation and fiscal framework that mandate and govern social protection interventions… right through to the day-to-day functions of getting benefits into people’s hands.

Figure 1 - The social protection system


Sustaining momentum

It is well recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic has created new opportunities for expanding and strengthening social protection. And while gender equality has often been at the forefront of COVID-19 issues, gender-informed social protection responses have been largely disappointing. However, there are exceptions – explicit targeting and programme innovations have shown what is possible. Now is the time to build on the energy that is surrounding social protection as a mechanism for change – hardwiring gender and inclusion considerations into new and existing systems.


Hands-on support and knowledge exchange

The new STAAR Facility (Social protection Technical Advice, Assistance and Resources) offers direct access to expert assistance and practical advice on how to build and strengthen social protection systems. The service has a special focus on helping governments and their partners with embedding sensitivity to the different needs of women and girls into social protection programmes – and the architecture that underpins them. Whether you need assistance in thinking through the gender dimensions of a new programme or policy, or you need support with a more specific challenge – the STAAR Facility can help. As a flexible service, the team will be driven by your needs. An assignment might look at the complex relationship between social protection and gender-based violence in your setting; how social protection might be used to support the resilience of women and girls to climate change; or how it might meet the needs of women in unpaid care work or the informal economy.


Who can use the STAAR Facility?

Actors from national governments and across donors, civil society, NGOs, multilaterals, and UN agencies are encouraged to access the Facility for free, direct support from STAAR’s independent expert roster – in the form of technical assistance, specialist advice, or bespoke resources.  Whether you’re a policymaker or technical decision-maker – in need of a quick review of a strategy or longer term embedded advisory support – the flexible Facility can craft a bespoke assignment to meet your needs. STAAR’s expert roster includes specialists in social protection and gender and a vast range of related disciplines from public financial management to monitoring and evaluation. The team’s geographical coverage is extensive with a network of experts well-versed in the nuanced political economies of countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. The team is particularly well-placed to provide support in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

All activities are overseen by the management and technical leadership team that delivered the SPACE service. Feedback from SPACE users highlighted how valuable they found the independence of the service – an element which the STAAR Facility is proud to continue. While STAAR is funded by the UK Government, all assistance and advice provided is impartial and expert led.


The broader STAAR agenda

In addition to its emphasis on gender-responsive social protection, STAAR also focuses on the use of social protection approaches in crises. Supporting service users with strengthening routine systems so that they can be effectively scaled up and out in response to crisis – as well as providing support with immediate response efforts.

Beyond direct support, the Facility has a remit to consolidate and share evidence in relation to gender-responsive and crisis-responsive social protection and actively support you with making sense of emerging knowledge in your own context. The team is excited to be continuing collaboration with – so watch this space for further detail on STAAR outreach and publications. 


Get in touch

You can request direct support from STAAR by contacting [email protected]. If you would like one of STAAR’s experts to participate in an event or if you are interested in co-authoring a publication, then you can reach the team in the same way.