Though Bangladesh has progressed towards becoming a middle-income country, still a large proportionofpeople are under extremepovertyandother vulnerabilities. Therefore, the Government is to provide social security services and benefits to reduce vulnerability and promote resilience to shocks and stresses at individual, household and community levels. Feminist researchers suggest that social security programmes can become a good instrument to promote gender equality and empower women. In Bangladesh, addressing gender in social security is critical as women are the majority among poor, face different types of vulnerabilities, have limited endowments to live as equal citizens and often are subject to gender-based discrimination and harassment. This document provides strategic directions for design and delivery of social security programmes that will support women’s empowerment and reduce gender gap while implementing the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) of Bangladesh. It also provides action plan for specific ministries on how they will advance gender equality through social security programmes.
Bangladesh targets women and girls in many social security programmes and in the absence of concrete guidance and planning, the gain towards gender equality were less than their potential. Therefore, a Gender Policy was developed and approved by the Central Management Committee (CMC) of National Social Security Programmes under the Chair of the Cabinet Secretary in 2018. This Strategyand ActionPlanis a step forward inrealization of the objectivesoftheNSSS towardsreducing the gender gap.
The NSSS isoperationalizedthroughthirty five Ministries andDivisions whichhave developed theirrespective action plans to implement the NSSS. This strategy and action plan support these Ministries/Divisions in designing and delivering social security programmes aiming at reducing the gender gap and empowering women and girls.
Gender in Social Security
A diagnostic study on social security programmes identified that besides gender-based discrimination and deprivation, women’s vulnerabilities and risks are different even if they live in the same situation. Social norms enforce subordination of women and girls leading to women’s low educational and economic accomplishment, weak bargaining capacity, lack of mobility, earlymarriage of girlsand child pregnancy, discriminatory legal provisions, low participation in public sphere and polities, thus intensifying the nature of disadvantages faced by women and girls. The Action Plans of different Ministries incorporate specific actions that will contribute towards changing the social norms and facilitate gender equality. The Gender Strategy and Action Plan both are anchored within the NSSS and Gender Policy for NSSS. The Gender Strategy and Action Plan have been developed in a participatory manner considering the main functions of each Ministry.
Priority Areas for Social Security under Gender Policy
The diagnostic study suggested that in addition to human and productive capital development for women, developing social capital and sense of self-respect and to address individuals’ needs at the appropriate phase of the life cycle, the Gender Policy identified eight different priority areas for social security.Food security and nutrition
- Food security and nutrition
- Human development support
- Access to livelihoods activities, income and transfers
- Active labour market participation
- Productive financial inclusion • Social empowerment
- Reaching urban women
- Expanded coverage of social insurance system
- Emergency preparedness and resilience to shocks
The NSSS action planidentified a few areas for gender focused social security for children and women. Their family members (particularly women), which have been considered in this action plan.
- Introduce Child Benefit Programme (allowances to be disbursed to female parents preferentially)
- Introduce Vulnerable Women’s Benefit programme Workplace Childcare Services
- Child Maintenance
- Maternal Health Care
- Maternity Insurance within National Social Insurance System (NSIS)
- Scale up SWAPNO (Strengthening Women's Ability for Productive New Opportunities) Project Scale up ‘One House - One Farm’ programme now called “My House - My Farm”
- Strengthen Social Allowance (financial support/ assistance/ benefits) for migrant workers and their families.
The Gender Strategy
The Gender Strategy is a framework that supports and complements the implementation of the NSSS and the Gender Policy to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment for the period of 2019-2025. The strategy has been synchronized with other strategic priorities of the country. In addition to human capital and productive capital development for women, developing social capital and sense of self-respect is important for women’s empowerment. Transformative social security programmes include support starting from the basic needs to developing voice, self-respect, decision making ability and capacity to overcome risks and vulnerabilities including violence. It is more beneficial for society and individuals to address the origins of gender discrimination and facilitate women’s empowerment as an outcome of social security programmes through multi-dimensional initiatives.
Areas of Social Security Support
The Strategy supports covering the key phases of life as in the NSSS in order to be not only protective but also gradually make them transformative.
- Childhood support: To provide all children, boys and girls from all backgrounds the opportunity to grow as human being with education, health, skills, knowledge and prepare for adulthood.
- Support for working age: To enable all working age women accessing the labour market with opportunity for decent work, income and a congenial work environment.
- Child bearing and maternity: To support women inthis important phase of their life to remain healthy and safe, and for delivery and development of healthy future generation.
- Old age and elderly care: Ensure care, livelihood and health care for the elderly women.
In addition, some issues that cut across all phases of life are important through social security support
- Affordable healthcare: To ensure affordable and accessible primary and lifecycle-based care for all vulnerable women and address gender specific health risks and risks due to shocks.
- Protection from violence, changing gender roles and social norms: To influence changing the social norm of women’s subordination, the role of women and men, and promote equality.
- Support for women with disability, minority, ethnic and other marginalized groups: To ensure basic rights and opportunities for development and leadership of these groups.
- Resilience from climatic and other shocks and vulnerabilities: To protect women and girls from adverse effects of the climate change and other shocks.
Strategies include: a. strategies related to lifecycle-based targeting and support; b. strategies related to programme design and delivery for gender equality; and, c. operational strategies.
- Strategies related to lifecycle-based targeting and support
Timely consideration and prioritized investment in lifecycle-based needs
The support and protection requirement of each age is essential. Early childhood care, bringing out of school children in education, skills for youth, maternal health care etc. with focus on gender-based needs safeguard from future vulnerability, risks and disability at a later stage of life.
- Focus on early childhood care and nutrition.
- Strengthen educational outcomes at school age and adolescent care.
- Enhance capacity for labour-market access.
- Ensure pregnancy and maternity care.
- Ensure elderly care: specific support for disability.
- Strategies related to programme design and delivery for gender equality
The following strategies related to gender equality, inclusion, empowerment and graduation need to be incorporated while designing social security programmes.
- Rights-based approach and transformative social security
- Support for vulnerable women
- Empowerment in programme objective
- Where applicable, plan graduation in advance
- Mainstreaming gender in programming
- Participation and inclusion
- Awareness, motivation and behaviour change to reduce discrimination and violence
- Voice and social capital
- Labour market interventions
- Reaching urban women
- Financial inclusion and resource base
- Cash transfer for start-up or access to livelihood activities and empowerment
- Emergency preparedness and resilience from shocks
- Expand coverage of social insurance system
- Operational strategies
Operational strategies incorporate ways to ensure effective implementation and better results through monitoring, harmonization, complementarity, capacity-building and such others.
- Harmonization (Consolidation), expansion and sustaining results
- Promoting complementarity and partnership for gender focused social security
- Invest in capacity and capability-building for gender responsive social security including capacity of beneficiaries, community and institutions
- Gender inclusive design and quality assurance
- Grievance redress mechanism
- Investment in monitoring
- Resource mobilization
The Gender Action Plan
The Action Plans have been organized for each Ministry or Division implementing or supporting social security services and also for thematic clusters. Emphasis has been given on lifecycle-based support, priorities set by the NSSS, and key actions in the clusters. It emphasizes on developing a Child Support Programme, a Vulnerable Women Benefit programme, women’s access to converted programmes from food-based to cash-based, livelihood support and consolidation of smaller programmes with incorporation of empowering elements. Besides consolidation of workfare programmes incorporating empowering elements and graduation planning, disaster preparedness and recovery, scaling up of stipend programme for girls etc. have been incorporated within the mandate of each Ministry or Division. In addition, ensuring gender-responsive programme design with strengthened gender-focused result monitoring using sex-disaggregated data, grievance redressal, digitized single registry MIS and G2P payment have been emphasized.
Implementation and Monitoring
Ministries and Divisions will be mainly responsible for the implementation of the Action Plan. Primarily thirty five Ministries/Divisions of the Government will develop an annual work plan integrating socialsecurityconsideringthe provisions of the SocialSecurityActionPlanandthe Gender ActionPlan. This work plan will be an integral part of the Annual Performance Agreements (APA) of the Ministry/Division and report to the Central Management Committee.
Ministry of Women and Children Affairs will support other ministries for mainstreaming gender in policies, projects and programmes, gender capacity building, and performance monitoring, where necessary. MoWCA will lead the process in developing the Child Benefit Programme and the Vulnerable Women Benefit Programme.
General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission will provide overall technical and operational guidance on operating standards, and assist in identifying social security priorities and trends by applying a gender lens.
Statistics and Informatics Division will help develop a database on eligible individuals for different types of social security and prepare a consolidated list of social security recipients in a sex-disaggregated manner. BBS will gather data and prepare presentation of gender-focused progress reporting.
Finance Division (FD) will strengthen Gender Responsive Budgeting shifting focus from at-entry allocation to utilization of budget for gender equality results and allocate budget to ensure timely support for lifecycle- based needs and women’s empowerment.
Central Management Committee (CMC) under the Cabinet Division will lead the process by ensuring smooth coordination between Ministries and Clusters to achieve the objectives of the Gender Action Plan to implement the Gender Policy of NSSS.
Cluster Coordinating ministries/divisions will coordinate the programmes under different thematic clusters to ensure that the objectives are achieved.
Social Security /Gender Focal Points of the ministries/divisions will be responsible for inclusion of gender perspectives within projects/programmes and coordination of women’s empowerment aspects within the Ministry.
The Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) will be responsible to integrate gender perspectives and use indicators in monitoring of social security programmes.
The new platform for GO-NGO Collaboration for Social Security Programme has been established, which will support the ministries in implementing the programmes and assist the CMC in monitoring and addressing grievances.