There are huge gaps in knowledge and practice in the effective implementation of cash transfer and gender programs. This is especially true in Africa and particularly so among practitioners working with national organisations. The humanitarian sector has not fully understood the implication of good cash transfer programming and the effect it can have on gender dynamics.
While there are studies showing that cash transfers can increase agency to girls and women, very few show clearly how cash programs can offer practical means of addressing gender inequality. We need more research and better programming capacity to bridge the skills gap for cash transfer programs.
In the panel discussion that I recently chaired at the Gender and Cash Transfer Programming Symposium in Nairobi, Kenya, researchers presented evidence that highlighted the nexus between cash transfer and gender dynamics. One research piece presented evidence showing how conditional cash transfers have helped nudge pregnant women deliver in quality health care facilities; meaning a facility which is well equipped for obstetric care and has the requisite qualified staff. In another presentation, the researcher demonstrated how unconditional cash transfers kept young girls in school in conflict and fragile South Sudan. This was important because early marriage and school dropout rates among young girls in South Sudan are one of the highest in the world. Moreover, evidence was presented to show that for those who got married off early and dropped out, cash transfers were a sufficient incent for the married girls to go back to school.
Yet another presentation looked at the evidence between cash transfers and the household dynamics. The research examined the relationship between cash transfers and gender-based violence in Malawi. Some of the evidence presented indicate that while cash transfer may indicate agency within the household, it may not transform gender relations. This is more so in the rural and traditional African cultural settings in which the control of money underpins male identity.
Human resource capacity in gender and cash has been cited as a barrier to effective cash transfer programming. Evidence shows that having skills in applying gender lens during all phases of humanitarian planning and implementation of cash transfer programs has great impact on program outcomes. The Humanitarian Leadership Academy and the Cash Learning Partnership have a global agreement on capacity building that uses Kaya, the Academy’s online learning platform, which has over 50,000 users in more than 190 countries. The platform aims to strengthen the capacity of humanitarian workers with relevant contextualized learning.
In conclusion, to positively impact gender dynamics with cash transfers, we need to contextualize our training and its translation into practice as well as increase research on what works in this type of assistance. This will help humanitarian organisations design and deliver more responsive programs targeting and investing in girls, women and even men.
One way of building capacity within the sector is to make use of the available sustainable learning solutions that utilise modern technology. These solutions should be flexible and adaptable to context. Further, it is not enough to just train but to train in a manner that offers access to opportunities for local humanitarian workers. This approach to access to training in areas that have hitherto not had it will address market failure in capacity to implement. Kaya offers a learning opportunity for these humanitarian professionals in resource poor settings.