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VAWG Resource Guide: Social Protection Brief

The briefing note looks at the intersections between social protection (SP) and violence against women and girls (VAWG), and options for integrating intervention to prevent and respond to VAWG in social protection programmes. 

In general, SP programmes are public interventions that support the poorest populations and assist individuals, households, and communities to better overcome social and economic risks.  These programmes can be implemented through public and/or private sectors, with the involvement of single or multiple government sectors, or by some combination of these actors. This brief focuses on four types of social protection interventions:

(i) Social assistance (social safety nets) programmes: cash transfers, school feeding, and targeted food assistance

(ii) Social insurance programmes: old-age and disability pensions and unemployment insurance

(iii) Labour market programmes: skills- building programmes, job-search and matching programmes, and improved labour regulations 

(iv) Early childhood development. 

The brief proposes a range of options for integrating VAWG into SP programming at policy, institutional/ sectoral, and community levels. 

Key Points

  • Women and girls, particularly those in situations of violence, are more vulnerable to social and economic risks. They are also disproportionately affected by poverty, inadequate health care, and lack of access to high quality education. In addition, women face greater challenges in recovering from shocks due to disasters, crime, unemployment, old age, and widowhood. 
  • Poverty, limited choices, and harmful gender norms can have a greater negative impact on women and girls compared to men and boys; the contrast is starkest for women and girls living in poverty. In addition to the myriad of social and economic obstacles faced by women and girls in poorer households, girls living in poor households are also almost twice as likely to be married before the age of 18. Marrying before age 18 has harmful effects on a girl’s sexual and reproductive health and increases her odds of experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) by 22%.
  • Women traditionally have more limited access to resources like land, finance, and training opportunities than men. Social norms often restrict women’s mobility and decision-making, as well as their access to education, employment, and means of livelihood. These limitations increase women’s vulnerability and create greater barriers to social protection benefits. This cycle of deprivation exacerbates women’s risk of IPV and can also hinder their ability to access available services for survivors of violence. 
  • Due to intersecting forms of discrimination and disadvantage, certain groups of women (ethnic/racial minorities, for example) are even less likely to benefit from social protection programmes if these programmes fail to consider specific needs/circumstances. Similarly, it is difficult for said women to access social services, support systems, and other benefits even though they are more likely to require them.
Date published
  • 2014
  • The World Bank
  • The Global Women's Institute
  • International Development Bank
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