CARE is committed to being “cash ready” to achieve breakthroughs for women and girls in its cash and voucher assistance (CVA) and to convene other stakeholders on the gendered aspects of CVA. Building that commitment, CARE commissioned a study on gender-sensitive CVA from its own project participants. The study aimed at understanding the:
■ Extent to which women, men, boys, and girls have been involved in the design of CVA and the implications of this involvement.
■ Potential for CVA to foster positive and sustainable gender roles and relations that contribute to gender equity.
■ Gender-related barriers and risks associated with collecting and receiving CVA including social and cultural attitudes and protection risks.
The study drew directly from the experience of those affected by crisis in a range operating environment—Haiti, Jordan, Malawi, Niger, and the Philippines. The priority was to hear from the project participants themselves and 380 women and men partook in Focus Group Discussions, storytelling and individual interviews. The country-level research was supplemented by a global-level literature review and semi-structured interviews with CARE staff.
DEFINING WHAT IS GENDER-SENSITIVE CVA
Through discussions, a set of characteristics of gender-sensitive CVA were defined:
■ Designed to respond to the unique needs and capacities of women, men, boys, girls, and those of other genders;
■ Developed in in a manner that avoids exposing recipients to harm; and
■ Built on social norms work.
INCORPORATING GENDER INTO CVA DESIGN
Women’s involvement in the design of CVA differed across the study countries. In some locations there was limited participation while in others, such as a program in the Philippines, CVA was designed with a specific gender focus that ensured that households were given the opportunity to decide which family member should receive the cash, the location of pay points and/or distribution sites, and the best times of day for the cash to be made available.
In those places where women were less involved in design discussions, crisis-affected populations highlighted that this resulted in less awareness of the role that they could play in decision-making at the household and community level upon receipt of the transfer. In some cases, this led to difficulties in collecting their transfers due to the location of pay points and/or distribution sites, delivery times, and transfer mechanisms.
The absence of involvement of affected communities, particularly women, in the design process highlighted the need for robust gender analysis to be systematically included as an integral part of needs analysis, both at the start of and throughout implementation of CVA. Without this, a number of threats to gender-sensitive CVA—and particularly to CVA that considers the specific needs and capacities of women—are likely to remain. This study found that these threats can exist both outside of the household, such as safety and security issues for women when collecting their transfers, but also within the home where risks of tension and violence may be increased when women are targeted as recipients.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR FOSTERING POSITIVE AND SUSTAINABLE GENDER ROLES AND RELATIONS THROUGH CVA
In line with the findings of earlier studies, this study found that, to promote more positive and sustainable gender roles and relations and transformative, CVA needs to be combined with complementary interventions—the Cash Plus approach. Recipients in all study countries cited healthcare, education training and skills development and the provision of essential services (such as legal support and financial advice) as important complementary interventions, which could be connected to via Cash Plus. The approach should be aimed at women and men, both at the household and community level.
The Philippines and Jordan provided examples of the adoption of the Cash Plus approach. In the Philippines, some recipients were provided with information sessions focusing on gender equity, financial literacy, child protection, resilience building, and hygiene and sanitation in addition to their CVA. Respondents confirmed that this had resulted in longer-term changes that extended beyond the timeframe of the CVA related to improved household-expenditure decisions, enhanced budgeting and savings skills, increased resilience, and strengthened livelihoods development. In Jordan, a case management approach was adopted in which all CVA recipients were referred for additional services providing psychosocial support, education, legal and health services, and vocational training. Provision of livelihoods support was also an important feature of Jordan’s approach to Cash Plus.
In some locations, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) provided a complementary form of support to women receiving CVA. In Haiti, Malawi, and Niger, some women used a portion of the transfer to contribute to and participate in VSLAs, which not only had immediate impacts in terms of increasing women’s involvement in household-level financial decision-making but also enhanced women’s longer-term financial management skills and capacities as a result of training received through these groups. Women involved in VSLAs highlighted the role of these groups— even in humanitarian response environments—as extremely important as they provided safe spaces for women to meet and strengthened women’s voices at the community level in addition to strengthening participants’ financial management skills.
The study also found that the inclusion of men in Cash Plus, such as gender equity trainings and awareness-raising sessions, was important to encourage positive attitudinal changes with regard to women’s roles, including in relation to financial decision-making