Can Social Protection Empower Women? Patriarchy, Economic Agency and Redistribution Policies in Egypt

in collaboration with the American University in Cairo

LSE PI: Dr Naila Kabeer 
Co-PI: Dr Hania Sholkamy 
Duration: August 2019 – July 2022


A woman and young girl walking in Alexandria, Egypt, 2019. Photo: Yasmine Kherfi. 

Can poverty alleviation undo gendered injustices? Egypt’s recently introduced cash transfers programme, Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity), which currently avails almost 3 million families through regular monthly cash transfers, has fulfilled its mandate in terms of providing protection to vulnerable families. The transfers enabled beneficiaries to increase food consumption and decrease their vulnerability to extreme shocks and hardship, by accumulating small savings or improving their credit worthiness. The programme has however failed to reach its aims of gender equality and women’s empowerment, despite having been explicitly designed to support women’s agency and mitigate gender inequality.

This research collaboration project explores the impacts of poverty alleviation programmes and cash transfers in particular, on gendered identities, as well as on the relationships that shape citizenship for women and families. The project investigates why the anticipated aims of improving women’s agency and fighting gender inequality were unrealised by this ‘model’ programme. Its main hypothesis is that impact evaluation methodologies are pre-designed rather than created in response to identified needs within local contexts. While such evaluations allow for comparability of the impacts of transfer programmes across different contexts, they do little to illuminate their specificities.

The project revisits the gender theory that undergirds social protection programmes to interrogate the links between theory and practice, as well as to inform future programme design and implementation. Based on ethnographic and statistical empirical research, this research project attempts to identify the potentials and limitations of redistribution policies such as cash transfers.

This project forms part of the Academic Collaboration with Arab Universities Programme, funded by the Emirates Foundation.


Project Outputs

Research Team


Dr Naila Kabeer | Principal Investigator 

Naila is Professor of Gender and Development at the Department of International Development and Department of Gender Studies at the LSE.


Dr Hania Sholkamy | Co-Principal Investigator

Hania is an anthropologist and Associate Research Professor at the Social Research Centre, American University in Cairo.


Marwa Makhlouf | Research Assistant

Marwa is a Research Assistant at the Social Research Centre, American University in Cairo.


Amira Othman | Research Assistant

Amira is an Andrew Mellon Post-MA Fellow at the Humanities and Social Sciences Lab, American University in Cairo.