Developing gender-sensitive social protection in Africa: Insights from South Africa’s Child Support Grant

In this technical brief, South Africa’ Child Support Grant (CSG) programme is used as a case study to illustrate the argument. Despite adopting a gender-neutral approach to transfer targeting that did not intentionally place burdens of care or compliance on women - an unusual approach in the late 1990s - the CSG has not demonstrably alleviated gender inequality since then. The brief draws on a study of men receiving the CSG (Khan, 2018). It shows that bringing men into the design and delivery of social protection carries some potential to change this, to the benefit of women, children and men. What this implies for the design of Cash transfer programmes more broadly is then discussed.

Across Africa, social protection systems are expanding rapidly. Cash transfer programmes (CTPs) have become particularly popular, especially CTPs designed with the aim of improving the wellbeing of children and breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty. As these child-focused CTPs are institutionalised and expanded, and as evidence about their impacts accumulates, it is important to consider how different groups of people are differently impacted. Child-focused CTPs have often improved household and child wellbeing indicators. However, these successes typically depend on resource-intensive care work – that is, all the work that goes into looking after people - that is done predominately by women (Hassim, 2008; Razavi, 2007). Care responsibilities that are not equitably shared are a structural cause of inequality between men and women. The unequal division of care responsibilities, and indeed gender concerns more broadly, have rarely, if ever, been integrated into the design of CTPs in the global South, and the consequences for the promotion of gender equality are increasingly evident.

In this technical brief, South Africa’ Child Support Grant (CSG) programme is used as a case study to illustrate the argument. Despite adopting a gender-neutral approach to transfer targeting that did not intentionally place burdens of care or compliance on women - an unusual approach in the late 1990s - the CSG has not demonstrably alleviated gender inequality since then. The brief draws on a study of men receiving the CSG (Khan, 2018). It shows that bringing men into the design and delivery of social protection carries some potential to change this, to the benefit of women, children and men. What this implies for the design of CTPs more broadly is then discussed.

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