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Child Protection and Poverty Linkages. ODI/ OAK Foundation. Rachel Marcus Consultant, Overseas Development Institute. Focus of Research. Four thematic areas: inadequate care, sexual abuse and exploitation, physical violence and early marriage

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odi oak foundation

Child Protection and Poverty Linkages

ODI/ OAK Foundation

Rachel Marcus

Consultant, Overseas Development Institute

focus of research
Focus of Research

Four thematic areas: inadequate care, sexual abuse and exploitation, physical violence and early marriage

1) What are the linkages between economic deprivation and child protection violations? (Comprehensive literature review)

2) What actions in child protection programmes address economic deprivation and how effective are these actions? (Adapted systematic review)

  • A 15 month research programme involving a comprehensive literature review, adapted systematic review, e-survey and expert interviews
  • Country studies now under way in Uganda, Vietnam and Ethiopia
relationship economic deprivation and child protection violations
Relationship economic deprivation and child protection violations
  • Of the child protection areas examined, economic deprivation is an important factor exacerbating the risk of: early marriage, sexual exploitation, involvement in gang/neighbourhood violence (as victim and perpetrator), children left without competent care while adults are working, institutionalisation, accidental injury
  • Poor living environments may increase risk of sexual violence (eg unsafe neighbourhoods, communal toilets)
  • Poor children at greater risk of sexual and physical abuse at work (because more likely to be working)
  • Evidence on relationship between physical abuse and poverty mixed but overall limited, esp. where corporal punishment widely accepted.
adapted systematic review evidence base
Adapted Systematic Review: Evidence Base

Multi-dimensional conception of poverty

Knowledge gap concerning impacts of actions to reduce economic deprivation.

Entailed looking at a wide range of child protection programmes and other programmes where child protection outcomes were reported ie not just economic strengthening programmes

369 papers were quality assessed for adapted systematic review

After quality assessment, 80 papers on interventions included in review

Overall 71 interventions examined, 13 for early marriage, 27 for sexual violence, 15 for physical violence, and 20 for promoting better care (several programmes had impacts on more than one issue)

how far do cp programmes involve economic strengthening components
How far Do CP Programmes involve Economic Strengthening Components?

Economic strengthening programmes

Cash transfers In-kind transfers

Vocational skills training Entrepreneurship training and support

Microfinance Job search information/ job matching

Between a third and a half the programmes examined have economic strengthening components. Most common for early marriage.

Largely run by NGOs. Only exceptions were large cash transfer programmes (state-run)

Very little integration with broader social/ child protection systems (reflects fact that most programmes examined were small-scale and run by NGOs)

Caveat: small number of programmes within each thematic area

early marriage overview of programmes examined
Early marriage: overview of programmes examined
  • 18 programmes in South Asia, Ethiopia and
  • Senegal;
  • 3 large (reaching 100,000+ children)
  • 9/18 had economic strengthening


  • Breakdown: 2 cash transfer, 2 in-kind

transfer, 5 microfinance,4 vocational skills training, 1 job-search

(NB several programmes had multiple economic strengthening activities)

  • Economic strengthening activities mostly run by NGOs (large cash transfer programmes were state-run)
cash and in kind transfers
Cash and In-kind Transfers

Conditional cash transfers, uniform and fee subsidies, and provision of school materials helped keep girls in school and achieved significant reduction in EM

  • Eg 1.2-15 years’ projected delay in age of marriage (Pakistan)
  • 30 % reduction in marriage among secondary school girls (Malawi)
  • Uniform recipient girls in Kenya 14% less likely to be married and boys 40% less likely than control group

Was it:

A) By keeping girls in school and thus they were seen as unmarriageable?

OR B) through the impact on household finances?

May be different mechanisms for in school and out-of-school girls (Malawi).

Most programmes lacked an awareness-raising component so no evidence as to whether this would have had additional impact.

BerhaneHewan (Ethiopia): school supplies had greatest impact on girls’ school attendance but community awareness raising had greatest effect on early marriage rates

early marriage mixed evidence for vocational skills and microfinance
Early marriage: Mixed evidence for vocational skills and microfinance
  • Mixed evidence about impact of microcredit for girls and trade-offs with schooling; especially in contexts where there has been a big push for secondary education for girls (e.g. Bangladesh); and also among younger girls (15/16 year olds).
  • Savings generally seen more positively than credit
  • Vocational skills training mixed – reflects specific programmes/ evaluations rather than constituting clear evidence on vocational skills training as strategy for reducing early marriage
  • Job-search support in India had positive effect (but only one programme)
  • All these programmes targeted girls directly – none targeted families to reduce economic constraints that may lead to early marriage
early marriage non formal education communication activities
Early marriage: non-formal education & communication activities
  • Non-formal education (eg life skills) contributed to significant reduction; esp. in ability to negotiate timing of marriage
  • NFE increased awareness of law and of safe age of marriage
  • Even split between girls who felt able/ unable to influence marriage decisions
  • Effectiveness of communication campaigns greatest among the youngest girls (10-14) and in contexts where viable alternatives to EM exist
  • Critically important to bring influencers of social norms , (including religious leaders, grand/parents, mothers-in-laws) ‘on side’
sexual violence overview of programmes
Sexual violence: Overview of Programmes
  • 26 programmes:21 in Africa, 2in Asia, 1 in CIS, 1 in LAC, 1 in Middle East
  • Only 3/9 gave data on numbers reached. Of these 3 reached 2000+ children
  • % run by NGOs
  • 9 (33%) had economic strengthening components
  • 9 had economic strengthening components, 10 child protection strengthening, 13 NFE/ life skills for children/ youth and 8 awareness raising for adults
  • ES programmes focused on commercial/ transactional sexual exploitation. Only 3 looked at trafficking.
sexual violence impact of economic strengthening programmes
Sexual violence: impact of economic strengthening programmes
  • Strongest vocational skills programmes seen in this theme (eg Save the Children programme in Northern Uganda, BRAC in Uganda) – linked to entrepreneurship training alongside vocational skills
  • Savings more effective than loans for younger adolescents
  • Cash & in-kind transfers limited but some evidence of uniform subsidy helping reduce cross-generational sex (typically exploitative and risky)
  • Skills training and transfers generally played limited role in reducing trafficking
sexual violence positive role of child protection systems and life skills
Sexual violence: Positive role of child protection systems and life skills
  • Child protection systems strengthening:
  • Appeared most effective for sexual abuse (compared to other violations) as fitted with community perceptions of what constitutes abuse
  • Diverse approaches, including school-based protection structures, sensitising police, building community level reporting structures, raising adult awareness
  • Poverty a barrier to use of child protection system (court fees, medical fees, corruption – Uganda & Zambia)
  • Life skills programmes: had positive effect on girls’ sense of their capacity to negotiate around sex (Uganda, Kenya, E Africa regional);
    • Boys learned about girls’ views towards sexual harassment (Thailand, Namibia); important because school-based abuse more common by boys than teachers

-Changed attitudes, and some evidence of reduced teen pregnancy (Kenya)

- Many achieved significant changes without economic strengthening components

physical violence
Physical violence
  • 15 interventions; 6 in Africa, 6 in LAC, 2 in Middle East, 1 in SE Europe, 0 in Asia
  • All small-scale
  • Deal with corporal punishment/ physical abuse, involvement in gang violence, former child soldiers
  • 5/15 had economic strengthening component
  • (vocational skills training, microfinance, assistance with job searching)
  • All 5 were related to gangs/ post-conflict violence prevention
  • All economic strengthening activities were run by NGOs; awareness raising programmes for parents run by government or academics
physical violence awareness raising and nfe play important role
Physical violence: awareness raising and NFE play important role
  • Awareness raising for adults: generally worked well in supporting parents and teachers to find alternatives to physical punishment. (eg Lebanon reduction in use of severe physical punishment from 40% to 6%)
    • Most programmes have focused on low-income communities and achieve change without complementary economic strengthening activities.
  • Life/ vocational skills for youth: typically for youth in violent neighbourhoods, in or at risk of gang involvement or of victimisation.
    • Help build social networks that help break down rivalries between neighbourhoods and provide safe spaces to socialise; mentoring role also important
    • Most effective projects provided skills with high demand (ICT) which helped marginalised youth escape poverty and become socially integrated through work
    • But economic strengthening components can be challenging as impoverished communities may struggle to invest in youth-owned businesses – as in post-war Angola
promoting better care overview of programmes
Promoting better care: overview of programmes
  • 20 programmes: 11 in Africa, 6 in Asia, 6 in LAC, 3 in Middle East
  • Main approaches: improved child care knowledge/ practice, improved access to day care, reduced risk/ incidence of accidents, better care of orphans
  • 7/20 programmes had economic strengthening component – primarily orphan support programmes run by NGOs
  • Principally in-kind transfers, some cash and microfinance
  • 5 programmes reached over 10,000 children (national cash transfer, nursery and parenting programmes)
better care training mentoring subsidised day care
Better care: training, mentoring, subsidised day-care
  • Training effective in changing knowledge and practices re child care, especially regarding greater stimulation, and accident prevention. Poverty emerged as barrier to greater change in accident prevention practices (South Africa, Mexico, Bangladesh)
  • Mentoring programmes: can provide essential material support to carers / vulnerable children, but constrained by mentors’ poverty, and problems of sustainability, low prioritisation and underfinancing by village governments (Tanzania). Also raises problems of singling out orphans.
  • Subsidised day care helped reduce poverty by enabling parents to work, and/or prevented young children being left alone, e.g. Mexico, Guatemala, but demand outstrips supply - even with Mexico’s estancias which is reaching 200,000 children. Plus issues of quality
  • Cash transfers seen as effective in alleviating financial constraints to good care; positive impacts seen from both conditional and unconditional transfers (but only two programmes – Uganda and Peru)
key knowledge gaps
Key Knowledge Gaps
  • What is the relative effectiveness of individual components of integrated programmes?
  • Could integrated programmes be streamlined to facilitate going to scale?
  • For what types of child protection issues can we achieve as much or more through broader poverty interventions compared to child protection-focused initiatives?
  • What about longitudinal effects? Are the impacts of awareness-raising/ life skills programmes more sustainable over time than those that focus on economic strengthening?
  • What political economy factors have facilitated programmes with positive child protection outcomes going to scale?
conclusions how important are economic strengthening activities
Conclusions: How important are economic strengthening activities?
  • Varies across and within themes
  • Much change achieved by changing attitudes/ knowledge alone (sexual harassment, physical violence, early marriage, better care)


Also strong evidence of positive effect of transfers/ subsidies on reducing early marriage without any attitude-change activities

And positive impacts of good quality entrepreneurship/ vocational skills for sexual exploitation, gang violence

And income poverty continues to be barrier to accessing CP systems, improving care practices and continues to exacerbate likelihood of early marriage & sexual exploitation

economic strengthening where are impacts greatest
Economic strengthening: where are impacts greatest?


  • Emerging evidence that microcredit, entrepreneurship training worked better for older adolescents; vocational skills worked with ‘mid-adolescents’ and upwards if well linked into local labour markets and adequate support provided
  • Little attention to helping parents generate better incomes – focus principally on adolescents
  • Youngest children bypassed by programmes that distribute transfers (cash or in-kind) through school, though they may share in broader benefits to households