The Gendered Dimension of Multi-Purpose Cash Supporting Disaster Resilience

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In 2017, in response to the mounting humanitarian crisis in Yemen, CARE Yemen and Action Contra la Faim (ACF) implemented a cash transfer program and community asset rehabilitation and skill building programing in the governorates of Abyan and Amran. This European Union (EU)-funded program integrated these interventions to enhance resilience building at household and community levels.

The overall objective of this study is to assess the impact of the Multi-Purpose Cash (MPC) on the resilience of households targeted by the program, with a focus on the experiences of female-headed households, their challenges with increasing their resilience, and barriers that male-headed households do not face.


The study had a qualitative-quantitative approach and the key questions were explored from the perspectives and experiences of male- and female-headed households. All new and existing data was disaggregated by gender for comparison and to explore any differences. Gender-related questions were also asked in key informant interviews (KII).

ABSORPTIVE How is the multi-purpose grant used within the household and does it reduce harmful coping behavior and support a more capable/resilient profile?

ANTICIPATORY What systems, supports, and information pathways exist in the community that allow for collective understanding of, planning for, and management of risks?

ADAPTIVE Did the households use the MPC to invest in their own resilience via livelihood or other asset investments? Did households' and communities' feel their ability to prepare for or recover from a crisis was affected by the community resilience support projects?

TRANSFORMATIVE Did households develop new or improved pathways to understand and plan for risks? Were new groups formed that created positive connections and increased access to support networks, markets, or shared assets?

Key Findings

ABSORPTIVE: The project did support household absorptive capacities. Ninety percent of recipients in Amran and 44% of recipients in Abyan had significantly lower negative coping behaviors based on the Coping Strategy Index (CSI). Livelihood Coping Strategy Index (LCSI) number showed positive reductions of 69% in Arman and 43% in Abyan, and across both governorates 41% invested in livelihoods.1 There was not a significant difference in experiences for female- and maleheaded households.

ANTICIPATORY: The project’s methodology of inclusive planning and discussion with communities for the selection of asset rehabilitation and skill building activities were cited by both communities and staff as having a positive effect on community cohesion, but not on planning and or risk management. In discussions (KIIs and focus group discussions (FGDs)), there were no reported plans for crisis or response at the community levels. However, overwhelmingly, people reported turning to neighbors and local leaders (Sheiks, prosperous community members like grocers and doctors/vets) for support and advice in times of crisis, which does show a strong localized community support and risk-mitigation network based on social capital. Over 99% of the survey respondents said they could borrow enough money from someone in their community to help their family in an emergency and 60% could turn to neighbors for information and assistance.

ADAPTIVE: The MPC allowed debt repayment (41%), increased saving and investment in livelihoods and supported less exclusive dependence on borrowing from neighbors and merchants in times of crisis; all key factors in improving resilience at the household level. 41 percent invested in their livelihoods, predominantly in livestock, some early in the MPC cycle (21%) and others towards the end (10%). 23 percent of respondents were able to save in the last 3 months (52% females, 48% males). While women were not as likely to engage in non-home-based labor to diversity their income stream, they were just as likely, and sometimes more likely, to save or invest in household productive assets, such as livestock.

The targeting of female-headed households for MPC assistance did support their resilience. The female heads of households reported significant decision-making power over the use of the money in the household. The participation in and use of community projects did not seem to be gender dependent; there was no difference in the way women or men reported their experience, access to, or use of community resilience projects. However, it is worth noting that neither men nor women reported significant effects from or use of many of the infrastructure projects when they talked about how they dealt with crises and what supports mattered to them. When asked about the key areas where they struggled, what their support systems were, and where and to whom did they turn to for help (all speaking to their resilience), the focus was on family and community supports. They only mentioned projects directly tied to livelihoods and market access (Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and market feeder roads).

TRANSFORMATIVE: Study data showed that 48% the of respondents from the KIIs turned to their community when times were hard or when they needed support or information (31% turned to their neighbors or well-off community members and 17% turned to their family). While those who belonged to VSLAs did save in their groups and these groups continue to function, no one specifically mentioned them when asked about social capital or risk planning. The majority spoke of social systems that allowed them to borrow money or credit goods from less vulnerable neighbors when times were hard and then pay it back when they had the resources. The money from the MPCs, which many reported using for debit repayment, strengthened this support network.

KIIs with market stakeholders and FGDs with community leaders showed some unanticipated positive results. More than half of the randomly selected market actors knew about the cash assistance project (52%) and many adjusted both the amount and items they sold to better meet the community’s needs. In fact, there were instances of local community members themselves investing in a new grocery in response to the increased purchasing power. Main markets expanded their offerings and new shops opened to meet demand. This showed that the MPC did have strong positive effects on the local market systems, beyond just the household beneficiaries. The market actors who benefited from were predominantly male-run enterprises, so if follow-on projects aim to also develop female entrepreneurship there will have to be a specific effort and understanding for a more direct approach.


■ If the project expects measurable outcomes and shifts in gender equity and empowerment, especially in constantly changing and crisis-affected contexts, these goals need to be explicit in both the project design and monitoring evaluation, accountability, and learning (MEAL) plan for program activities. The targeting of female-headed households is not sufficient to create change in gender normative behavior. However, the fact that there was not a significant difference in male and female engagement with the project does show that the design ensured access and supported women’s participation.

■ Basic needs support is not “solved” once families and communities begin to invest in common resources or livelihoods strategies. It only means that the MPCs have been effective in assisting with meeting basic needs, allowing minimal space for other work and investment. If MPC ends, that space contracts and the resilience activities are less effective or end all together. Therefore, to protect gains, it may be necessary to continue the MPC during continued resilience programing.

■ If there is an expectation of investment in livelihoods or improvements in household’s resilience, this would need to be factored into a MPC amount as part of the Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) process.

■ If we are always selecting the least able and most vulnerable, then the expectation for investment, action and change over time toward resilience without significant social support programs and services may be unreasonable. There may be a need to define criteria that allows for the differentiation between those who will need continued higher-level psychosocial and financial support due to extreme age, illness, or infirmity and those who have economic or social vulnerability that can improve over the medium-to-short term.