Examining Protection and Gender in Cash and Voucher Transfers: Case Studies of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Published: January 2013

This CaseStudy reports that over the years, many aspects of cash and voucher transfers have been analysed and studied, however, there has not been a substantive amount of study specifically devoted to protection and gender implications - both positive and negative - of such programming. In response, in October and November 2011, WFP conducted a literature review of previous studies of cash and voucher transfers to investigate whether cash and voucher transfers were working towards improving protection of, or at minimum doing no further harm to, beneficiaries, as well as what impacts they could have on gender and community dynamics. In addition, WFP headquarters sent a short questionnaire to their field offices to gather their observations on the impacts of cash and voucher transfers on protection and gender within their own programming.

Key Findings

  • One of the core advantages of cash is the flexibility it offers, which does not fit neatly into the sectors by which assistance is organised. Aid agencies with sector-specific mandates should not be afraid to embrace these advantages because of concern that cash provided to cover needs in one sector may be used by beneficiaries to cover need in another they find more important.
  • A more effective coordination between assistance actors could mitigate these internal operating limitations and ensure that the needs of households are covered more comprehensively.
  • Viewing cash and vouchers as one tool in a broader assistance strategy could enhance the protective impacts of cash and vouchers.
  • The shift in transfer modalities of aid from in-kind assistance to cash and vouchers provides an opportunity for agencies to more fully incorporate protection and gender issues into their programming -- not only to address new issues arising from cash and vouchers, but also to address longer standing protection and gender issues that have not been previously addressed in programming.
  • Most of the protection and gender issues raised within the context of this study are not new or unique to cash and voucher transfers.
  • Revisiting programme design, to include more inputs from programme participants at nascent stages, in addition to a more thorough protection and gender analysis, would serve to address many of the concerns noted by this study.
  • Although cash and vouchers were generally viewed positively in all the case studies by beneficiaries and key informants, this is not to say they are always appropriate.
  • The appropriateness of cash transfers depends on needs, markets and other key factors all of which vary from context to context.

Populations Men, Women

Complementary Outcomes Women's Rights

Publishers United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP)

Geographic Focus Africa (Central) / Chad, Africa (Eastern) / Kenya, Africa (Northeastern) / Sudan, Asia (Southeastern) / Pakistan, Asia (Southern) / Bangladesh, Asia (Western) / Jordan, Asia (Western) / Palestine, South America (Northwestern) / Ecuador