Genderized Clientelism in Conditional Cash Transfers

By Christian Gruenberg

The overall management of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programmes is riddled with gender issues, especially given the central role of women as transfer recipients in the programmes, which are largely administered by male public officials. Women receive the cash transfers contingent upon compliance with health and educational responsibilities for them and their children. To receive their benefit, women must automatically build direct relationships with a diverse group of males who occupy different positions and functions in the CCT and state bureaucracy: programme operators, municipal officials, nurses, doctors, teachers, bank staff, etc.

In Argentina, for example, the household programme was not explicitly focused on women as recipients of the cash transfer (unlike other CCTs), but through the process of self-selection, women accounted for 75% to 80% of those registered in the programme. 32% of complaints received in the programme come from women who complain against males, and 24% of complaints received are women who complain against other women. Overall, the data in Table 1 suggest that women regularly found themselves in a subservient role to men with more power, resources and social status in the client–patron relationship.


TABLE 1. CCT Complaints in Argentina by Gender
The complainant
The denounced
Percentage (%)
Female
Male
32
Female
Female
24
Male
Male
14
Female
Institution(public/private)
10
Male
Female
6
Male
Male/female
6
Female
Male/female
2
Male
Institution(public/private)
2
Male/female
Male
2
Male/female
Male/female
1
Male/female
Female
1
Source: Gruenberg, C., Pereyra Iraola, V.,  "The Patronage in the Management of Social Poverty Reduction Program" (CIPPEC, 2009) public policy document, Analysis n.60.

The data in Table 1, supplemented by a qualitative analysis showing that complaints were made against forced participation in political events, personal services and requests for money (usually mediated by some form of gender-based violence), suggest that in patriarchal societies – where women inevitably have less power than men – the CCT may be transforming the traditional patron–client relations into genderized relations of domination.

The Mexican experience, however, shows that traditional subjects of clientelism (requests for money, personal services, etc.) are not always the ‘caciques’ (also known as ‘political broker’ in Argentina, ‘cabo electoral’ in Brazil, and ‘capitulero’ in Peru). In Mexico, the largest percentage (39%) of clientelism complaints made to the CCT programme are made about the health sector, followed by ‘vocals’ - beneficiaries elected to represent the interests of other beneficiaries and control education and health services (34%), the staff of the CCT programme (10%), municipal authorities (7%) and the education sector (5%) (Hevia and Gruenberg 2010).

This finding suggests that new CCT programme reforms to promote transparency, as well as the implementation of strict mechanisms for the objective selection of women participating in the programme, may be able to remove political intermediaries and to reduce traditional clientelistic manipulation. At the same time, reforms create opportunities for new power dynamics, such as in Mexico, where conditionalities related to health and education empowered doctors, teachers and other health and education workers to decide on the permanence of women in the programme, producing new clientelistic practices as an unintended effect.

In the institutional context, CCT programmes aim to stimulate demand for and control over health and education, through the pressure of mothers on the supply of public services. However, although this may seem benign, laudable even, the response of public services is romanticized, as if they were gender-neutral and free of misogyny and racism. Governments must take gender power relations into consideration in the design and implementation of CCT programmes and the delivery of social services, particularly if they are relying on women as primary drivers of accountability within CCT programmes (MacPherson 2008). In addition, the differences observed in gender-disaggregated data should be investigated, and reforms, standards, tools and guidelines should be developed to protect women’s human rights.

Further Reading: 


ICHRP (2009).
Corruption and Human Rights: Making the Connection



    ICHRP (2010).
    Integrating Human Rights in the Anti-Corruption Agenda : Challenges, Possibilities and Opportunities

    World Health Organization (2009).
    Strategy for integrating gender analysis and actions into the work of WHO”.


    • Gruenberg and Pereyra (2009). "The Patronage in the Management of Social Poverty Reduction Program". CIPPEC public policy document, Analysis n. 60.

    About the Author:

    Chris Gruenberg is a feminist lawyer. He studied law and public policy at the University of Buenos Aires, Universidad de Chile and Harvard. His work seeks to challenge the androcentric bias and hetero-patriarchal violence that characterises the design and implementation of public policies. He was also a lead writer and researcher on the ICHRP reports on corruption and human rights.

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