Gender, Cash Assistance, and Conflict: Gendered Protection Implications of Cash and Voucher Assistance in Somalia/Somaliland

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Protection issues are multi-dimensional in Somalia and Somaliland. Vulnerability is as much about physical violence as it is about drought and chronic food insecurity. The challenges that Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland face can be roughly categorized into (a) environmental, or climate related, and (b) human-made crises. The recurring droughts of 2016 and 2017 left 5.4 million people in need of assistance and protection. Climate-related emergencies and increased violence with the rise of al-Shabaab and other violent non-state actors has led to migration internally and externally. Conflict shapes gender and protection issues across the region, increasing vulnerability, particularly for already marginalized groups like women, the disabled, and minority clans. The effects of conflict are not homogenous nor evenly distributed. Those living in the central and southern areas of Somalia have been particularly affected by the consequences of war, whereas those in the northeast (Somaliland) have experienced relative peace for almost a decade.

Differences in resource allocation, access and use of those resources, the size and strength of local clans and male elders, and the presence of armed groups are related to a variation in protection issues throughout the region. While protection issues are widespread, they are also built on a foundation of a gendered clan hierarchy which underpins dynamics in the entire region.

The majority of communities experience water and food insecurity, and many experience forced, climate-change induced, or livelihood-motivated displacement. Sexual and gender-based violence is ubiquitous but affects men and women, boys and girls in very and gendered ways. In Somalia/land women and girls are at increased risk of experiencing this sexual violence during displacement, when searching for food and water, or in and around areas with a presence of armed forces.

In light of ongoing conflict and unexpected drought, millions of civilians have found themselves in humanitarian crisis. Cash and voucher assistance programs (CVA) serve as a key modality through which UN Agencies, INGOs, and national NGOs respond to this need for support. While we know that CVA offers immediately relief to food, water, and income insecurity, recent studies have shown that cash assistance also impacts gender-based violence. Women and girls in Somalia report that CVA can reduce their risk of rape, physical assault, and sexual harassment.

CARE has worked in Somalia and Somaliland for nearly 40 years delivering development and emergency aid. Since 1981, CARE focused on women and girls and, more recently, the organization’s programming has centered on issues related to gender, rural women, urban youth, and emergency aid across the regions of Somaliland, Puntland, and South Central Somalia. CARE Somalia has a successful track record for implementing CVAs across humanitarian, recovery, and development interventions. Throughout the 2016 and 2017 drought, CARE Somalia oversaw 15 separate projects that utilized CVAs for food security, reaching over 50,000 households and distributing a total of 23 million USD (CARE International 2018b).

In February 2019, CARE Somalia commissioned a study to examine how gender and protection issues interact with CVA programming. This report outlines the full findings from that study, which sought to engage in a deep discussion of (1) protection issues throughout the region, (2) differences in protection issues by gender, and (3) differences in protection issues by CVA status (i.e. receiving or not receiving CVA). Importantly, this is not an evaluation and thus the impacts of specific projects with CVA are not explored.

This study followed a five-phase empirical strategy that relied heavily on a multi-method approach. This empirical strategy involved the collection of original qualitative and quantitative data collected in Somaliland, Puntland, and Nairobi. Supplementing this primary data was a rigorous review of project data, ACLED violence datasets, and academic and practitioner literature. Issues which may not have strongly impacted the selected data collection locations— communities in Sool and Mudug—may in fact be some of the most prominent and challenging protection issues throughout Somalia and Somaliland as a whole. A structured review of primary data against the background of secondary data mitigates selection bias, whereby research findings are merely an artifact of the sample chosen to study. In a place like Somalia/land where there are high numbers internally displaced communities, the impact of violence—including gendered violence—is mobile, following survivors as they move from less secure areas to those that are more secure.