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Violent Conflict and Gender Inequality: An Overview . Mayra Buvinic & Monica Das Gupta January 30, 2012. Based on a paper by Mayra Buvinic , Monica Das Gupta, Ursula Casabonne , & Philip Verwimp. Outline. Objective Framework Background Methodological issues and approaches

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violent conflict and gender inequality an overview

Violent Conflict and Gender Inequality: An Overview

Mayra Buvinic & Monica Das Gupta

January 30, 2012

Based on a paper by Mayra Buvinic, Monica Das Gupta, Ursula Casabonne, & Philip Verwimp

  • Objective
  • Framework
  • Background
  • Methodological issues and approaches
  • First round impacts
  • Second round impacts
  • Discussion
framework possible transmission channels
Framework: possible transmission channels
  • Household
  • coping
  • strategies
  • to drop in
  • income
  • and other
  • disruptions
  • Mortality and
  • morbidity
  • Indirect impacts on
  • health
  • Changes in marriage and fertility
  • Widowhood

Labor reallocation

Violent conflict

  • Sexual and
  • gender-based violence
  • Children’s human capital

Migration and


  • Political and civic participation

Asset and income loss

First round impacts

Second round impacts

  • Wars are ‘development in reverse’
    • Average cost of civil war : 30 years of GDP growth, takes 20 years to recover. (WDR 2011).
  • Conflicts often recur
    • 90% of the last decade’s civil wars occurred in countries that had had a civil war since 1945 (WDR 2011).
  • Conflicts spread to neighbors
    • 75% of refugees hosted by neighboring states.
  • Rapid postwar recovery is possible
    • E.g. Germany, Japan, Vietnam.
methodological issues
Methodological issues
  • Large-scale, high quality household surveys are often not available.
  • Difficult to attribute causality.
  • Lack of reliable baseline information.
  • Lack of empirical information on gender variables at the individual and household level.
  • Conflict treated as a discrete event.
  • Safety and ethical issues
methodological approaches
Methodological approaches
  • Better micro-data: panels, household surveys and secondary sources
  • Measures for conflict
    • Exploit differences in the timing of armed conflict (Verwimp and Van Bavel 2011),
    • Exploit differences in the level of conflict, as measured by differences in the number of people killed or in the physical destruction caused by conflict (Valente 2011, Shemyakina 2011)
    • Proxy measures – e.g. density of forest cover in Nepal (Menon and Rodgers 2011)
    • Proposal to add a generic violence module in standard household surveys (Brück et al 2010)
  • Attribution of causality, addressed by:
    • Instrumental variables
    • Differences-in differences

Mortality and Morbidity

Estimated Population Distributions by Age and Sex

Source: Authors’ analysis based on data from the United Nations Population Division, 2006.


Indirect impacts on health

Women and children are more exposed than men to indirect health effects of war due to loss of income and assets, population displacement, or orphanhood.

  • In Rwanda, 17% of women who were survivors of genocide and 67 percent of rape survivors were HIV positive (McGinn, 2000).
  • A study of 135 countries from 1962-1997 found that for every refugee who left a malaria endemic zone there were 2-2.7 new cases in the receiving area (Montalvo and Reynal-Querol 2007).
  • A meta-analysis of 25 years of research finds that females are more at risk of developing post-traumatic and depressive symptoms after traumatic events—including war trauma (Tolin and Foa 2006).
  • Challenge of establishing satisfactory counterfactuals.


Widows may form a particular group of households that are differentially affected by conflict and need specific attention.

  • In some post-war settings, women-headed households were found to account for up to 30% and more of all households (El-Bushra2003, Gervais 2004).
  • Widowed-headed households have a higher incidence of poverty when compared to male-headed households but show a less pronounced gender division of labor (Bruck and Schindler 2010).
  • Widowhood strongly associated with poor mental health (Das, Friedman, and McKenzie 2008)
  • Analyzing war widows empirically has several challenges: 1) Difficult to capture the time dynamics of widowhood through cross-sectional data. 2), widows may be constantly moving among different households of relatives and thus difficult to identify from survey data.

Potentially long-lasting negative consequences for children of widowhood.

School enrollments of cohabiting dependent children aged 5-14 by age and mother‘s marital status, rural Mali 2006

  • Source: van de Walle, Dominique, 2011. “Lasting Welfare Effects of Widowhood in a Poor Country.” Washington DC: World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 5734.

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGV)

  • Weapon of war in Bosnia (20,000 estimated raped), Rwanda (300,000 estimated raped):
    • Most others: crime of opportunity (DRC 400,000)
  • Also affects men and boys
  • Affects mental health and productivity

Though serious under-reporting


Migration and displacement

  • Women and children comprise 80% refugees and internally displaced (WDR 2011).
  • Displaced, suffer asset losses and major economic and social difficulties in the resettlement process.
    • In Colombia, annual labor income among displaced persons fell by 80% and recovered to only about half of its pre-displacement level after more than a year (Ibanez and Moya 2010).
    • Displaced females work longer hours, earn similar wages and contribute in larger proportions to household earnings relative to rural women who do not move, but this increased contribution does not seem to strengthen their household bargaining power (Calderon and others 2011).

Asset and income loss

  • In Mozambique, 80% of cattle stock was lost (Bruck 2006).
  • In Rwanda, average cattle stock was halved, while 12% of households lost their house (Berlage and others (2003)
  • In Tajikistan, the civil war 1992-1998, damaged the homes and livelihoods of 7% of households (Shemyakina 2011).

Conflict may severely diminish household assets.


Coping under very difficult conditions

  • Handicapped by:
    • Difficult conditions due to first round impacts
      • Loss of hh assets
      • Breakdown of infrastructure (roads, transport, services)
        • Higher infant mortality persists during the first 5 years of peace (cross-country analysis) (Hoeffler and Reynal-Queral 2003)
      • Mutual support networks shrunk since wide area affected
  • Women responsible for household coping, if husband gone/ maimed:
    • New roles: in many societies, men more active in public sphere
    • Dealing with trauma, e.g. rape, men & children lost/ maimed
      • Nepal: increased probability of miscarriage in high conflict intensity districts (Valente 2011)

How do households try to recover

  • from consequences of conflict?
  • Several mechanisms emerge from studies:
    • Changes in marriage & childbearing strategies
    • Re-allocating labor to protect household income
    • Protecting children’s human capital
    • Reducing potential for further conflict through political & civic participation

Changes in marriage

  • Postponing marriage common when times are hard
  • Shortage of men:
    • In Tajikistan, women in conflict-affected areas 1/3 less likely to be married (Shemyakina 2009)
    • In Colombia, increasingly high frequency of consensual unions (Holland and Ferguson 2006)
  • Sometimes earlier marriage:
    • Nepal: Girls married younger in conflict-affected areas of Nepal, possibly to avoid stigma if abducted (Valente 2011)
    • Orphaned girls married younger in non-conflict settings (e.g. Tanzania, Beegle and Krutikova 2008)

..and fertility

  • Childbearing often postponed during conflict/shocks, subsequent baby boom:
    • In Cambodia, fertility fell by 30% during the Khmer Rouge period and then nearly doubled two years after regime ended (Heuveline and Poch 2007)
  • Replacing dead children:
    • Fertility higher among women who lost children (especially boys) in Rwanda genocide (Bruck and Schindler 2011)
    • In Cambodia same number of surviving children whether or not lost children during the conflict, despite shortages of men(Heuveline and Poch 2007).

Women surveyed 30 years after conflict, were young enough to have more children


Replacing dead children can help assure old age support

  • In Cambodia, this strategy helped survivors of conflict ensure old age support (Zimmer et al 2005)
    • 80% living with children (17% more with others)
    • 93% receive money or goods from children
    • The widowed report improved economic status, partly because larger remittances from children

Re-allocating labor

Loss of men in conflict and declines in household income alter household labor allocation.

Women’s ‘added worker’ effect familiar from World Wars

  • Reallocate women’s labor towards income-generation:
    • In Tajikistan, young women born in the conflict affected regions are 9.5% more likely to have a job – continued after conflict ended (Shemyakina 2011)
    • During Nepal conflict, women much more likely to be employed if husbands away, and widows to be self-employed (Menon and Rodgers 2011)
    • May use girls to substitute for adult women’s typical work:
      • In Rwanda, unmarried women engaged more intensely in growing food crops and domestic tasks (Schindler, 2010)

Children’s human capital

Violent conflict affects children’s health & schooling, thereby their life chances

Stunting and lower schooling ass w lower lifetime wages

  • Child stunting associated with conflict:
    • Burundi: impact of child stunting could translate into as much as a 20.5% percent reduction in adult wages (Bundervoet et al 2009)
    • Iraq: Children living in high conflict areas during the 2003 war 0.8 cm shorter than those living in low conflict areas (Guerrero-Serdan 2009)
    • Zimbabwe: child stunting increased with number of months of exposure to civil war, negatively affected their schooling outcomes (Alderman et al 2006)
  • Households seek to avert this:
    • Rwanda: Poorer households shifted to subsistence crops, associated with improved child nutritional status despite a fall in household income (McKay and Loveridge 2005)
    • Uganda: Greater reliance on subsistence farming where conflict limited alternative sources of income (Deininger 2003)

…and children’s schooling

Families try hard to minimize children’s loss of schooling…

… but cannot fully protect their income-earning potential

  • Child schooling:
    • Germany and Austria:, WW2 children lost about 0.2 years of schooling on average , estimated 2-3% long-term loss of earnings (Ichino and Winter-Ebmer 2004)
    • Uganda: child soldiers lost no more schooling than the duration of their abduction, but lower literacy and lower earnings (Blattman and Annan 2010)
    • But in Burundi, conflict exposure halved the odds of completing primary school. (Verwimp and Van Bavel 2011)
  • Gender and wealth differentials:
    • Boys’ schooling may suffer more, esp if large gender gap in schooling -- Cambodia, Rwanda (Akresh and de Walque 2008, Annan et al 2009)
    • Interaction with wealth gap: Boys from non-poor households most affected ─ Rwanda, Burundi (Akresh and de Walque 2008, Verwimp and Van Bavel 2011)
    • Girls’ schooling may suffer more if concerns about safety: Tajikistan, lower schooling of female teenagers in conflict-affected regions (Shemyakina 2011)

Political & civic participation

Conflict can enhance positive civic & political behaviors, attempt to reconstruct communities & prevent further conflict

  • Greater political activity & collective action:
    • Sierra Leone: Conflict-affected show higher levels of political mobilization & community engagement:
      • more likely to attend community meetings, join local political & community groups, engage in building local public goods, register to vote (Bellows and Miguel 2006,2009)
    • Uganda: former child soldiers 27% more likely to vote and twice as likely to be community leader (Blattman 2009)

Bringing women into political & civic life

Post-conflict reconstruction sometimes seeks to expand women’s participation in civic and political life

  • In Haiti, Liberia, Nicaragua, and Sierra Leone, transitional governments introduced female staffing and gender-specific service in the police force (WDR 2011)
  • In Timor-Leste, the United Nations-supported transitional administration engaged women in rebuilding public institutions (UNIFEM 2009: 30-31)
  • In Uganda, Burundi, DRC, and Nepal, the new constitutions adopted affirmative action mechanisms, especially quotas and cooptation systems, to help empower women economically and politically
    • In DRC, the post-transitional constitution of 2005 guarantees 50-50 parity between men and women in political positions
  • Gender focus highlights particular conflict-triggered impacts -- such as children’s human capital and widows’ burdens.

Helps inform the design of policy responses

  • Conflict changes households’ demographic profiles and coping responses include various adjustments
  • Heterogeneity of impacts across contexts, conflicts, and countries for girls and boys, women and men
  • Effects of conflict on the labor market by gender for countries and households similar to those observed with economic shocks
  • Many households rebound from the shock inflicted by conflict:
    • Poorer households, widows, more vulnerable to long-term poverty
areas for further research
Areas for further research
  • Which impacts are more profound and persistent than others?
  • What factors make some individuals and households more resilient to the impacts of conflict than others?
  • How lasting are the changes in traditional gender norms after conflict?
  • How do gender roles and inequalities affect the family’s coping responses to the losses?
  • What are the long-term effects of sexual violence on female and male victims?
  • How can Bank interventions improve gender-informed service delivery in fragile states?
    • emphasis of the follow-up work