Reducing non-partner gender-based violence with conditional cash transfers in the Philippines

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Home is meant to be a place of shelter, shielding us from the perils of the outside world, but for many women around the world, it is just the opposite. When the doors are shut at the end of the day, these women are locked inside with danger. Intimate partner violence is shockingly widespread—a study by the World Health Organization found that 1 in 3 women aged 15 to 49 have suffered from physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. But many women are also subjected to domestic violence by non-partners, such as their husband’s relatives, their siblings, or parents.

A new study conducted by the East Asia and Pacific Gender Innovation Lab (EAPGIL), which evaluated the impact of the Philippines conditional cash transfer program Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (or 4P) on gender-based violence (GBV), found that among 563 women interviewed for the study, 217 suffered from violence—physical, sexual, emotional, or economic—at the hands of an intimate partner over their lifetimes, 95 were survivors of such violence from other household members, and 50 experienced such violence outside the home.

Across the globe, a range of initiatives are being undertaken to prevent and mitigate the risk of GBV. Among these, cash transfer programs have increasingly shown potential in reducing GBV, especially intimate partner violence (IPV) in men to women. The inflow of cash in the household and complementary interventions included in cash transfer programs, such as access to education and health services or participation in community-based knowledge sessions, has helped reduce IPV under several cash transfer programs in low- and middle-income countries.  

The study conducted by EAPGIL explored whether conditional cash-transfers can also alleviate non-partner domestic violence and violence outside the home. Importantly, it also examined the impact of the 4P program on factors which may mediate women’s exposure to violence, such as overall well-being of household members, women’s bargaining power, and exposure to social networks. The study was supported by the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE), a multi-donor trust fund that facilitates better data and knowledge of what does and does not work to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Below are some of the study’s key findings.

4P led to a reduction in emotional non-partner domestic violence

To understand the impact of cash transfers on different types of violence experienced by women, the study collected data on 563 women and their partners between November 2019 and February 2020. Women were asked about their experience with intimate partner violence, non-partner domestic violence, and violence outside home. Half of the sample was comprised by beneficiaries from the Philippines 4P program and half comprised by individuals who were just above the program’s eligibility cutoff and did not receive cash transfers. The study finds 11 percentage points reduction in emotional violence perpetrated by household members other than an intimate partner among 4P participants, where emotional violence could entail any form of verbal insult or humiliation. Interestingly, most of this reduction was confined to a fall in emotional violence perpetrated by siblings or siblings-in-law. 

4P’s impact on IPV and other more prevalent forms of violence is not as clear

However, the study finds no evidence of impact on other types of GBV, such as IPV and violence outside home. While 4P transfers helped mitigate rarer and less severe forms of violence, they did not have an impact on graver forms of violence, such as physical violence. The program also affected violence exerted by those in less central relationships with 4P beneficiaries—siblings rather than partner. The study attributes this to several factors. First, the size of transfers provided under the 4P program (a maximum of $24 per month) was relatively small compared to other programs, which have shown to reduce exposure to violence. The study also argues that the program could have benefited from integrating additional complementary interventions, including to support behavior change.

4P led to an increase in help-seeking behaviors among GBV survivors 

Importantly, the study found that beneficiaries from 4P were more likely to seek help when they faced any form of emotional violence compared to women from non-beneficiary households. According to the Philippines 2017 National Demographic Health Survey, only 30 percent of women that have experienced violence reported that they have sought help from someone. These results provide relevant evidence on how cash transfers can be leveraged as an instrument not only to mitigate GBV, but also to encourage help-seeking and reporting behavior among a majority of GBV survivors who are not reaching out for help. The 4P program includes a gender-based violence reporting mechanism as part of its grievance redressal system, which may have helped achieve this change.

4P contributed to women’s enhanced well-being, empowerment, bargaining power and access to social networks

But how do cash transfers affect gender-based violence? Past research suggests that cash transfers may lower GBV through their impact on four different mediating factors. 

First, by increasing the economic security of household members, transfers can improve their emotional well-being and reduce the likelihood of intra-household conflict. 

Second, designating women as the recipients of transfers and subsequent economic empowerment through cash grants may improve women’s self-perception and consequently increase women’s empowerment. 

Third, transfers can improve women’s bargaining power, as paying transfers to women may improve their outside options and reduce their tolerance towards violence. 

Fourth, they can enhance women’s social capital and networks, particularly when cash grants are accompanied by complementary activities such as attending trainings and workshops. 

Consistent with past findings, this study found evidence suggesting that beneficiary households experienced improvements in each of these four areas, which could have in turn contributed to lower levels of non-partner domestic violence.

These findings are promising and suggest CCTs granted under Philippines’ 4P reduced women’s likelihood to be affected by GBV perpetrated by household members other than their partner, led to increased help-seeking behaviors and had positive effects on mediating factors associated with reduced levels of GBV.  

A concerted effort is needed, however, to address intimate partner violence and violence outside the home. For example, a greater emphasis on interventions that address unequal behaviors and norms could have the potential to deepen the impact of Philippines 4P, and other social protection programs in the region, to address other types of GBV. Last year, the World Bank Group—with the support of the Rapid Social Response and Adaptive and Dynamic Social Protection Trust Fund Umbrella Program—published a toolkit which contains operational guidance and recommendations on how to leverage safety nets to prevent gender-based violence. 


Abhilasha Sahay

Economist at the Gender Group at the World Bank

Ervin Dervisevic

Consultant working with East Asia and Pacific Gender Innovation Lab at the World Bank

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