2019 Economic Development, Equality, Health and Social Protection Review

Applying a Masculinities Lens to the Gendered Impacts of Social Safety Nets

Meagan Dooley, Abby Fried, Ruti Levtov, Kate Doyle, Jeni Klugman, Gary Barker

Social protection systems are highligthed in Agenda 2030 as an important tool to reduce poverty. Different forms of Social Safety Net programs (SSNs), like cash transfers, in-kind food aid or public work programs are rapidly becoming cornerstones in many national poverty reduction strategies and international development programs.

This literature review looks at how SSNs better can integrate a gender-relational lens, including an analysis of masculinities and power dynamics, with the aim of making them more effective and sustainable.

The report was presented during the seminar Enhanced gender equality through social protection programmes – what do we know?


  • Most SSNs reinforce gender roles and norms, as they target women as main beneficiaries, based on the assumption that women are more likely to use transfers to benefit the entire household.
  • Some SSNs have attempted to shift the care work burden from women to the state, by providing childcare subsidies, but none have encouraged greater male involvement in care work or sought to breakdown the female care giver trope.
  • A few SSNs have included transformative elements, such as men and women’s savings groups that tackle larger issues of joint decision-making, household finances, and division of household labor

Meagan Dooley, Research Analyst, the Brookings Institution
Dr. Ruti Levtov, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning, Promundo
Dr. Jeni Klugman, Managing Director, Georgetown Institute for Women
Abby Fried, Senior Program Associate, Promundo
Kate Doyle, Senior Research Officer, Promundo
Dr. Gary Barker, CEO, Promundo