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Social Protection, Gender Norms and Adolescence: An Expert Dialogue

10 Sep
09:30-17:15 GMT
London, UK

Social protection is currently high on the international policy agenda – as illustrated by the fact that the next Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) that will take place in New York from 11– 22 March 2019 will focus on the topic of Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

On 10 September we, alongside ALIGN and the UCL Institute of the Americas convened a closed-door workshop that brought together global experts to advance thinking on social protection, gender, adolescence and development, by critically reflecting on existing practice and current research. Participants included colleagues from academia; donors; implementing agencies and researchers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; DFID, FAO, GAPS UK; George Washington University; ILO; Ladysmith; the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); the Overseas Development Institute (ODI); University College London (UCL); Oxford Policy Management; Promundo; UNICEF; UNICEF Innocenti; and the World Bank. A number of them went on to attend the UN Women Expert Group Meeting on ‘Social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality’ that took place on 13–15 September in New York.

Over the course of the day, the experts considered how a stronger analysis of gender norms in different contexts can contribute to more effective social protection policies, and the effects of social protection policies on gender norms, particularly as they affect adolescents.

The focus questions were:

  • How are social protection programmes targeting or inclusive of adolescence?
  • How are social protection programmes helping to change gender norms affecting adolescents and young adults, and across the life course?
  • Can a gender norms lens help advance a gender-responsive social protection agenda?

Experts concurred that there is limited evidence on the intersection of social protection policies during the second decade. Despite their potential to create change, social protection policies and programmes often do not reach adolescents: they are either targeted at younger children or at adult women and households more generally. They agreed that a one-size-fits-all model of social protection fails to reach adolescents effectively, despite the potential that this age group has to create a better future. They also emphasized the need to draw attention to the kind of complimentary services needed for social protection programmes to effectively support adolescent girls’ and boys’ multi-dimensional capabilities (including education, health and nutrition, psychosocial wellbeing, economic empowerment, freedom from violence, and voice and agency).

We are currently working towards a policy brief on this topic to be published by UN Women ahead of CSW63, helping to inform Member States’ and practitioners’ understanding of this topic.