Development Myths in Practice: the ”Femininisation” of Anti-poverty Policies and International Organisations. The Cases of Brazil, the Philippines and Mozambique

What are the effects of gender-based international development programs in Brazil, the Philippines and Mozambique?

Project Summary

Over the past ten years an ever growing epistemic community has advanced a paradigm considering women as the principal agent in the struggle against poverty. In Southern countries, it is embodied in a specific series of policies, projects and programs, supported by the major international organisations and defended by NGOs and opinion leaders. Recent research shows to what extent this issue embraces contradictory aspects.

In many cases, the “feminisation of the struggle against poverty” entails strengthening the stereotyping of women and an increase in the traditional roles of “care” attributed to women. These ambiguities were reinforcing the need for international comparative studies attempting to answer some central questions: How and in what way has this type of discourses, policies and programs been adopted by countries in the south? What are the strategies of different kinds of actors concerning the implementation of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) programs? How are these narratives entangled with local cultures and the specific structures and gender relations in which they are embedded? How do people from different communities react to the implementation of CCT programs and why? What are the results of these programs in different southern countries? Have they reinforced or deteriorated the position of women in society and have they contributed effectively to fight poverty? Under which conditions are these programs efficient? The research project was based on a comprehensive study of the implementation of Gender Discourses and Cash Transfers programs in three countries: Brazil, the Philippines and Mozambique.

Working Paper

Bolsa Familia, gender and empowerment. The case of Fortaleza in Brazil.

This report is the subject of a confrontation with the field, which has made it possible to identify some of the characteristics of the implementation of the Bolsa Familia. The latter is a policy that has its own institutional and administrative characteristics. They allow you to thus structuring the functionality of the policy in a legal approach. The way in which the program works allows the emergence of new actors, but also new ones programs. Thus, it can be observed that poor women have become a language and a common and consensual strategy. This whole is condensed into an institutional language which makes it possible to categorize and conceptualize actors. This language provides a framework for which of the meanings circulate within it. These meanings have an impact on how individuals are included. Doing so, they have an impact on the institutional practice of the staff and beneficiaries. It is at this level that social learning is able to allow progress in the analysis of the program. The actors are able to reproduce, in their practice, what the system of ideas gives them as a representation of reality.

Working Paper

Over the past decade, Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes have proliferated in Latin America and other regions. Through the implementation of short- and long-term interventions that should contribute to breaking the generational cycle of poverty, they have been designed with the aim of reducing poverty and extreme poverty. The overall objective of this research is to analyse the management modalities and mechanisms of the resources arising from the Brazilian Conditional Cash Transfer Programme: Bolsa Família. Special attention will be paid to how women in Florianópolis manage their daily family life and the way their relations with the State take place through policies of social assistance, education and health, as a result of their inclusion in the Programme. This part of the research will expose the challenges of an analysis based on heterogeneity and will seek to apprehend contextual aspects, as well as the singularities of the management process of the Programme by the subjects interviewed.

Working Paper

Gender, new social policy and international organizations in the Philippines.

This work is based on various sources, such as scientific articles, governmental reports, press, policy speeches, interviews, observations ethnographic or “life stories”. Life stories are articles tracing the beneficiaries’ journey through this programme, emphasising the success of these last. These life stories or success stories are available on the official website of the Pantawaid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This virtual showcase of the program features a series of “life stories” of actor-tricks (the most often women are beneficiaries, but there are also social workers, professors, teachers, social workers, doctors, social workers, children, families and neighbours of beneficiaries, etc.) that are far or near to the programme, in which the actors are interviewed on perceptions of the program and its importance in their lives. More generally, actors are frequently questioned in life stories about personal, family and community transformations caused by this program. On May 20, 2010, the program’s website had fifty-five life stories, including thirty-six mentioned women beneficiaries of the program in some way. The women (and secondarily children) thus occupy a central place in the window of the government’s CLCs. Whether by words, pictures or photos, the women are therefore regularly the subject of speeches and stagings as we do will see. However, these productions are not neutral.

Working Paper

Gendering Social Policies in Brazil and the Philipines. The Cases of Bolsa Familia and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Programmes.

Recent research on the paradigm of feminization of poverty alleviation highlights two elements of the international (narrative) discourse “Gender and Poverty”: on the one hand, the decontextualization of analyses only by its ahistorical and asociological content remains insensitive to the specificity and complexity of contexts as well as to power dynamics and gender relations, and on the other hand, the maternal effects of new social programs based on the discourse of women’s empowerment.


Social Protection as Development Policy: A New International Agenda for Action

At the turn of the millennium, social protection became a new priority for both states of the global South and international development policy more generally. As, in the past, social protection policies were considered unsuitable for developing countries, the elevation of social protection to the level of a preferred instrument of development marks a fundamental paradigm shift. This shift began in the late 1990s, driven by disenchantment with the results of economic adjustment programs, the 1997 Asian economic crisis, and a heightened awareness of the negative effects of global poverty. Social protection thus became a preferred instrument of the Millennium Development Goals, while the World Bank promoted social protection as a key component of international poverty reduction strategies (social risk management). The Department for International Development (DfID) in the United Kingdom, along with other organisations, promoted a development model centered on the rights of the poor. Successful social protection programs developed in the Global South – such as Brazilian and South African social pension schemes and conditional cash transfers (CCT) established in Mexico and Brazil – were adopted as model programs at the global level. The purpose of this article is to analyse the emergence of social protection in development policies. From this perspective, it examines the various types of programs promoted by the international community, with a specific focus on CCT. It concludes with an assessment of the relative appropriateness of social protection policies for developing countries.

Working Paper

Gender mainstreaming and the law on domestic violence against women in Mozambique: the reasons for the controversy

In its simple version, gender mainstreaming consists of systematically integrating a gender perspective into the development and implementation of public policies. As a gender strategy, it quickly gained importance with the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Its rapid adoption by prestigious international organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations agencies, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), gives it full legitimacy for international dissemination. First adopted by the European Union to promote gender equality within the Community, gender mainstreaming will gradually be tested in many African countries, including Mozambique. Development agencies in Mozambique are facilitators. International aid in many programs is now conditional on women’s participation.

Working Paper

Gender, social structure, politics and social programmes in Mozambique.

Gender relations in Mozambique are the result of both cultural heritages, which are diversified according to region, and external pressures and influences mediated by successive political powers. First and foremost, it is important to highlight the ethnic diversity of a country of 800,000 km2 whose borders were set by the colonial powers at the Berlin Congress. In large part, national sentiment is the result of the struggle for independence. Michel Cahen can title one of his articles on Mozambique: “a country without a nation” (1994).

While it is necessary to be cautious about the accuracy of ethnic differentiation in Mozambique (Monnier, 1990), the fact remains that work on the different cultural areas within the African region encompassing Mozambique is sufficiently numerous and consistent (Paul, 2008) to allow a simplified typology of gender cultures in Mozambique to be developed. Traditions, which differed from region to region, were influenced more or less deeply by Portuguese colonization and evangelical missions, the struggle for independence (1960-1975), state socialism (1975-1983), civil war (1977-1992) and the transition to a market economy (1983/1987).

Research Team

Francois-Xavier Merrien
University of Lausanne

Randolf David
Principal Member
University of the Philippines

Lucciana Jaccoud
Principal Member
Instituto de Pesquisa Economica Aplicada

Antoine Kernen
Principal Member
Centre pour les études asiatiques


Mario Lisbôa Theodoro
Principal Member
Instituto de Pesquisa Economica Aplicada

Didier Péclard
Principal Member

Ilario Rossi
Associated Member
Institut des sciences sociales Anthropole

Georges Chapelier
Associated Member
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Milko Matijascic
Associated Member

Roland Sigg
Associated Member
International Labour Organisation





Policy domains


Host Institution