A growing evidence base points to the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with women and girls in low- and middle-income countries at greater risk of experiencing the consequences of rising poverty and food insecurity, increased unpaid care work, and gender-based violence. In parallel, governments across the world, some with the support of development banks and other donor institutions, have either newly launched or expanded existing social protection programs in an effort to support their populations. This paper, part of a series documenting the gendered dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis, focuses on the role of social protection policies and programs in addressing gender inequalities, or in some cases risking their exacerbation. The paper begins with a conceptual framework illustrating how the pandemic, associated response measures, economic contraction and different coping strategies intersect with underlying gender norms and inequality in ways that differentially affect the wellbeing of women and girls. It proceeds to synthesize the existing evidence on how COVID-19 has contributed to global poverty, food insecurity, increased care burdens, and gender-based violence, how women and girls are disproportionately experiencing these negative impacts, and how social protection can address them. The paper then outlines how national governments and donor institutions have mobilized social protection measures and to what extent these measures are gender-sensitive – and concludes with recommendations for donors and policymakers to ensure future social protection programs reach and benefit women and girls.
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