Author : Tamara Bah
Publication site : World Bank Blogs
Type of publication : Article
Date of publication : December 2019
In The Gambia, men, as household heads, are expected to make decisions regarding family income and use assets for the benefit of the family, without any form of consultation with family members, even when those decisions affect women’s lives. Whereas, women may have their own assets but must consult with their husbands first; not doing so may include physical violence or divorce. Department of Household Survey data from 2013 shows that a higher percentage of women than men (58% versus 33%) agree that wife beating is justified. The fact that women seemingly accept physical violence indicates the need for more positive change. It is this acceptance that condones negative perceptions of women by both men and women.
A higher percentage of women than men (58% versus 33%) agree that wife beating is justified
Male governance is engrained in all forms of decision-making. A 2019 qualitative study on gender and intrahousehold allocation in The Gambia showed that 58% of respondents—men and women—prefer husbands to receive cash transfers. But this rather startling fact does not reflect a lack of desire for change; research has shown that Gambian women living below the poverty line have great aspirations to break intergenerational poverty cycles by investing in the productive human capital of their children. There also is a cry for support for education, where children will be educated for a better future, women will be supported with farming inputs and help to set up business enterprises like poultry, petty trading, with the backing from government interventions.
To support women’s goals, the Government of Gambia, in partnership with the World Bank, launched the Nafa (translation; ‘something that benefits you’) Cash Transfer Program. Fifteen thousand extremely poor households—40% of the country’s extreme poor—will receive bi-monthly cash payments for food security, health, education and schooling costs. And, if possible, for savings or investments in micro-enterprises.
The project will support and empower women and young girls by encouraging households to name a woman as the main unconditional cash transfer recipient and giving families an option to opt out if they fear this will lead to violence. The program also provides specific messaging to children and their families about nutrition, health, and schooling.
Widespread evidence shows that cash transfers have large positive effects on education and health services, as well as nutrition as well
Widespread evidence shows that cash transfers have large positive effects on education and health services, as well as nutrition as well. In particular, cash transfers can generate a 6% rise in school attendance and a 7% rise in enrollment relative to baseline rates. Health expenditures increase, within the range of 0–63%, with a mean impact of 24%. These advances are consistent with reduced child labor and increased purchases of school uniforms and/or fees.
To avoid further intra-household tensions or potential violence, the cash transfer is accompanied by social and behavioral change communications (SBCC) that challenge social norms and harmful practices by explaining the importance of women’s decision-making.
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