Empowering rural women through social protection

Besides reducing poverty, social protection has great potential for promoting women’s economic empowerment and reducing gender inequalities. Nevertheless, the contribution of current social protection schemes to these development goals is still limited. When women are designated transfer recipients, social protection schemes can facilitate their access to resources and promote their role as decision-makers in the household; however, these outcomes do not happen automatically. For example, cash transfer schemes require complementary services to ensure that women cash recipients maintain control over their own incomes and decision-making capacity. Asset transfer schemes need to take into account women’s capacities, needs and aspirations in terms of resources and skills development. Similarly, public works programmes need to improve women’s skills and promote employability after completion of the programme. The design of social protection schemes requires an integrated approach, linking with other livelihood programmes and social services, so that these can lead to sustainable poverty reduction. Finally, changing mind-sets and perceptions about women in social protection policies and programmes is needed, not only to protect women’s roles as mothers and care takers, but also to promote their economic empowerment.