The ‘Social Protection Systems for Gender Equality - Webinar in preparation of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 11-22 March)’ took place on 28 February 2019. The purpose of the webinar was to bring together various key stakeholders from Africa, UN-Women, and international development partners (SPIAC-B) to share their views on how to best promote universal access to gender-responsive social protection for all women, men and children, expanding coverage progressively, in nationally appropriate ways, in all countries and regions.

The webinar was planned in preparation to the sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), taking place in New York from 11 to 22 March 2019. The webinar was organised by the European Union Social Protection Systems Programme (EU-SPS), which is co-financed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Government of Finland and managed by The Government of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and OECD’s Development Centre. The EU-SPS is a European Union action aiming to support low- and middle-income partner country governments and national expert institutions in their efforts to develop inclusive and sustainable social protection systems.

The event was moderated by Timo Voipio (Chief Expert, THL-Finland, EU-SPS), alongside presenters Fatmata Sesay (Regional Policy Advisor, UN-Women ESARO), Roopa Hinton (Chair, Gender Working Group of the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board, SPIAC-B), and Mutale Wakunuma (Consultant, Institute for Social Policy in Africa, TRANSFORM).


The recording is available here and the presentation here.


Operational work on social protection: SPIAC-B

Timo Voipio introduced the institutional context of the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) and its success in coordinating efforts in the field. SPIAC-B’s work reflects the mandate of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN-ECOSOC), which includes the Commission on the Status of Women (UN-CSW) and the United Nations Commission for Social Development (UN-CSoCD). In these normative commissions, governments are represented in country-groups.

With this in mind, the webinar went on to discuss ways to facilitate positive outcomes for the SCW63 and understand the important questions for Africa and SPIAC-B.


African inputs into global norm setting on social protection at the UN CSW

Fatmata Sesay’s presentation followed with a discussion of some of the African priorities for the CSW63. She explained that the CSW63 focuses on social protection systems, public services, and sustainable infrastructure and how these areas are interrelated. When people need social protection benefits, they are also likely to need, for example, education and health services, which requires the existence of physical infrastructure to be delivered.

Throughout the CSW63 pre-consultation meetings, African experts and Ministers of Gender/Women Affairs from African Member states prepared a unified position for the African continent, resulting in the following key messages:

  • Ensure gender parity in decision making for social protection.
  • Expand and scale-up best practices in social protection programmes and recognise innovations from Africa.
  • Extend social protection systems to women and girls who are exposed to insecurity, conflict and post conflict situations, humanitarian crises, violent extremism.
  • Invest in social protection services for women and girl returnees, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), victims of human trafficking, women and girls living with HIV, survivors of violence, FGM, and child/early/forced marriages.
  • Mobilise and equitably allocate resources to strengthen accountability and improve evidence.
  • Expand domestic resource mobilisation through progressive taxation and other revenue sources to strengthen financing of social investment and gender-responsive budgeting.
  • Implement sustainable tax financed or social insurance schemes to cover all household members throughout the lifecycle.
  • Promote citizen participation in monitoring and evaluating the funding and management of social protection systems, public services, and sustainable infrastructure.


Towards gender-responsive social protection

Roopa Hinton then discussed the importance of gender-responsive social protection; the CSW63’s priority theme; and the work of the SPAIC-B gender working group towards the CSW63, as well as corresponding plans, priorities and challenges.

Although social protection is not deliberately designed to promote gender outcomes, there is growing evidence that social protection delivers a range of outcomes for women and girls. However, there is a risk of doing harm when social protection programmes are gender-blind, hence the importance of the CSW3 in creating momentum with partners to debate what more can be done to empower women and girls.

Hinton emphasised the following action points towards putting gender equality at the heart of social protection:

  • Generation of commitment at the national level of government.
  • Mobilisation of support among development partners and donors for the agenda.
  • Strong civil society voices calling for investments in gender-responsive social protection.

SPIAC-B has been instrumental in initiating dialogue among development partners, having established a gender working group in May 2018. SPIAC-B’s vision is to stimulate a scale-up in gender-responsive social protection.

Hinton ended her presentation by outlining some of the challenges ahead for SPIAC-B’s gender group:

  • Focusing on comprehensive systems and recognising the transformative impacts that care services have on the choices that women can make.
  • Reaching out to other actors and networks working on this agenda, such as CSOs and women’s rights organisations, to transform how social protection is designed and delivered.
  • Bringing the message of gender-responsive social protection to the national level; where decisions are made.


Lessons emerging from research and literature: East and Southern Africa

Mutale Wakunuma discussed followed with a presentation on the lessons learned that emerged from research undertaken in the East and Southern African regional context. She also drew attention to innovations and challenges that inhibit gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

In terms of lessons learned on what works in social protection system design in reducing gender inequality, five factors were identified in the research:

With respect to lessons learned on how and why social protection contributes to reinforce gender inequalities, Wakunuma discussed how some social protection policies and programmes have been found to 1) essentialise women; 2) neglect women’s decision-making power; 3) be gender-blind; and 4) ignore context.

She then identified three main challenges in designing programmes that contribute to reducing gender inequalities:

  1. Difficulty in making changes in the system due to convenience.
  2. The gender equality “price tag” is often seen as an unnecessary cost.
  3. Social protection is programmed for poverty and not for rights.

In term of ways forward, Wakunuma ended her presentation by highlighting the following:

The webinar closed with a Q&A session, accessible here.


This blog post is part of the Social protection to promote gender equality and to reduce other socio-economic inequities webinar series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organised by EU-SPS on the topic. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!

Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Gender
  • Global Development Agenda (SDGs / MDGs)
  • Global
  • Global
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's