Trends in Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment and its Relationship to Children’s Wellbeing in Ethiopia

As the second most populous country in Africa and one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, Ethiopia is on track to bring millions out of poverty. This path requires an equity approach to ensure the most vulnerable populations receive the support required to participate in the country’s growth. Among these, girls and women face some of the hardest challenges, as there is a long history of gender inequality in Ethiopia, with poorer women and girls especially facing multiple disadvantages.

To facilitate Ethiopia’s commitment to supporting its women and girls, SPRI Global recently presented the findings of the latest study on trends in gender equality, women’s empowerment and its relationship to children’s wellbeing, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was a joy for our team to collaborate with the Ministry of Children, Women, and Youth Affairs, UNICEF Ethiopia, line ministries, and other stakeholders on this important research project.

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SPRI Global researcher Erëblina Elezaj presenting to UNICEF and government officials 

The overarching aim of the study was to set baselines for monitoring Ethiopia’s progress in achieving SDG 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and its targets. The indicators and domains used in the analysis derive from the sustainable development agenda, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UN Convention on Eliminating all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and other relevant international and national policy and legal documents. The selected indicators are age-specific and reflect the lifecycle needs of girls, boys, women and men and risks that they face, while simultaneously unmasking present inequalities in outcomes and their potential implications on equity.

The study also constructs the first official women’s empowerment measure in Ethiopia at the micro level, using Kabeer’s conceptual framework consisting of three domains of empowerment, resources, agency, and achievement, an extensive consultations process with stakeholders, and econometric analysis. The assessment of the relationship between women’s empowerment and children’s wellbeing outcomes aims to instigate discussions on gender-sensitive policy responses for improving children’s wellbeing. The study is also intended to inform policy interventions aimed at enhancing gender equality and equity in the short- and the long run.

The analyses were carried out using data from four Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey waves, 2000, 2005, 2011, and 2016, and also shed light into progress achieved in enhancing gender equality through related policies and strategies implemented in the country in the last 16 years.


CoverLike many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Lesotho faces significant challenges related to persistent poverty, poor outcomes and hindered development. In January 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect to focus on strategic areas of development and to provide support for policymaking in achieving national development plans and policies. One strategic area of development is the alleviation of child poverty, which is reflected in SDG1, Target 1.2, aimed at reducing at least by half, by 2030, the proportion of children, men, and women living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

Partnering with UNICEF Lesotho, SPRI Global was happy to support the agenda of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho by assessing the situation of its children. Assessing the current situation of children in Lesotho establishes the empirical threshold for measuring and monitoring the progress towards achieving the SDG 1, Target 1.2, and prepares the relevant policy recommendations that aim at achieving this target by 2030. This study builds on the assumption that understanding the complexity of child poverty and children’s deprivation is essential to addressing the needs of children through suitable programs and policies.

Therefore, this report aims to analyze the extent and characteristics of children’s deprivations and the profiles of the children suffering from deprivation in Lesotho, and to inform equity-based policy responses. The complexity of child poverty in Lesotho is analyzed through UNICEF’s Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) methodology. This methodology was explicitly designed to holistically approach and quantify children’s poverty to help identify its multidimensional nature and to support the identification of interventions that more accurately meet the needs of children.

Specifically, MODA identifies the type, level and overlaps of deprivations in the areas of nutrition, HIV/AIDS, health, housing, protection against violence, sanitation, water, education, information, and registration. In addition, MODA uses profiling variables to describe the characteristics of the most vulnerable children in Lesotho. In addition, a Wealth Index is used to map wealth among children living in households in Lesotho as a profiling indicator and to measure the overlap between monetary poverty and multidimensional deprivation in the country.

The analysis is based on data from the 2014 Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey (MOH and ICF International, 2016). To improve the capture of children’s deprivation in relation to their developmental stage, the analysis splits children into four age groups: 0–23 months, 24–59 months, 5–12 years, and 13–17 years. A section detailing the methodology of this study is presented next. A section presenting the results follows that. Conclusions and policy recommendations sum up the report.

Download the full report from UNICEF Lesotho.

‘MULTIDIMENSIONAL CHILD POVERTY in the Kingdom of Eswatini’ Report Now Available

CoverPoverty reduction is a national priority for the Government of Eswatini and SPRI Global was happy to support the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development (MEPD) and UNICEF Eswatini to measure and analyze the complexities of child poverty. The Poverty Reduction Monitoring and Evaluation Division under the MEPD, coordinates programs aimed at promoting inclusive growth resulting in poverty reduction as guided by the country strategy for Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth (2022).

Despite efforts to reduce the prevalence of poverty in the Kingdom of Eswatini, it remains an occurring deprivation that disproportionately affects children. Building an understanding of the multidimensional nature of child poverty is essential for addressing the needs of children through suitable programs and policies. This report provides up to date empirical evidence on the multidimensional nature of child poverty in the country and aims to set the baseline figure for child deprivation and future monitoring of progress in achieving target 1.2 of the Sustainable Developmental Goal 1 aiming at reducing child poverty by at least half by the year 2030. To the extent that child poverty leads to limited opportunities and violation of basic human rights, this report defines child poverty as a vulnerability that encompasses multiple domains of child well-being.

In 2017, the Ministry, in collaboration with UNICEF and with SPRI Global’s support, conducted a child poverty assessment with the purpose of providing empirical evidence on child poverty to inform government efforts in fighting against poverty, particularly among children. The assessment used multidimensional overlapping deprivation methods to determine the level of child poverty in Eswatini. The data was generated from the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) and the report goes beyond mere deprivation rates and identifies the depth of child poverty by analysing the extent to which the different deprivations are experienced simultaneously. The 2017 child poverty assessment report is the product of collaborative efforts of different institutions. The Ministry of Economic Planning and Development would like to extend its sincere gratitude to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) for providing technical support for the meaningful interpretation of the MICS data, the child poverty assessment technical writing team who provided guidance on the construction of the child deprivation indicators for Eswatini. The team also provided inputs and comments during the drafting and finalization of this report.

This study uses the multiple overlapping deprivation analysis (MODA) methodology to map the multidimensional poverty of children in the country. In order to understand the complexity of child poverty, the approach uses and quantifies children’s vulnerabilities in a holistic manner and measures the multidimensional nature of poverty that leads to the identification of interventions that more accurately meet the needs of children. The analysis was conducted using secondary data from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014. Given that children have different needs at different stages of their childhood, they were divided into four age groups (0-23 months, 24-59 months, 5-14 years and 15-17 years). The dimensions of well-being used by MODA in Eswatini were: nutrition, health, HIV/AIDS, child protection, education, child development, clothing, water, sanitation, housing, and information, communication and technology (ICT). These dimensions of well-being vary according to the different age groups.

Download the full report from UNICEF Eswatini.

MoU Signing Ceremony with Thammasat University

On April 2, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between SPRI Global Director Chris De Neoubourg and Thammasat University leadership in Bangkok, Thailand. According to the MoU, both organizations intend to strengthen their cooperation, especially in the field of social policy and social protection by collaborating on developing a set of professional capacity building courses and academic programs. Existing projects will be continued and new initiatives will be developed.

The partnership is set up as part of the ASEAN Centre for Social Work and Social Welfare as conceived by ASEAN and the Thai government. SPRI Global and Thammasat will collaborate with other universities in the ASEAN region to design and implement academic and professional training programs and social protection research to be delivered in the countries of the region.

SPRI Global Director Chris De Neubourg and associate Victor Karunan with Thammasat University dignitaries at the MoU Signing Ceremony

After a formal signing ceremony, representatives of SPRI Global, public and private
universities in Thailand and Indonesia, state ministries, NGOs, UNICEF and the ILO held a first explorative meeting on the way forward towards delivering the first programs. Future plans also include the creation of a Centre for Asia Pacific Childhood Studies (CAPCS), led by SPRI Global associate Victor Karunan, and further cooperation with the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and the Royal Thai Government.

SPRI Global Director Chris De Neubourg and Thammasat University leadership celebrating their organizations’ continued partnership

Thammasat University is one of the leading universities in Thailand and also offers many graduate programs in English for international students. The signing of the MoU highlights an ongoing partnership between SPRI Global and Thammasat University, which has focused on the creation and leadership of joint projects on social policy and social protection in Bangkok, with support from UNICEF Bhutan and UNICEF ROSA.

International Women’s Day 2019!

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on the 8th of March and is a day to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still have to go to truly achieve gender equality.


Progress and real development will only be possible if all people have equal rights and opportunities to thrive. Meeting that goal requires recognizing that women and girls face particular barriers and have different needs. And then taking deliberate steps so that no woman or girl is left behind, regardless of where she lives or how much she earns, or where she comes from.

Echoing the priority theme of the upcoming 63rd  session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”, the theme for International Women’s Day 2019 explores the ways in which innovation can work for gender equality, boost investment in gender-responsive social systems, and build public services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.

According to UN Women research, these thematic agendas are critical at a time when social innovations have the potential of providing unprecedented solutions to meet the needs of marginalized women and those at the bottom of the pyramid:

  • 740 million women currently make their living in the informal economy with limited access to social protection, public services and infrastructure that could increase their productivity and income security.
  • Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men, with only 41 per cent of the world’s mothers with newborns receiving maternity benefits.
  • One in three women are likely to face violence in their lifetimes, yet public services, urban planning and transport systems are rarely planned with women’s safety and mobility in mind.

This women’s day we thus remind ourselves that women and girls are often foremost among those who suffer from the lack of public services and social protection, undermining their rights and negatively impacting their well-being. Adequate social protection requires innovative approaches to increase the quality and affordability for women users, responding to constraints that women face in accessing those services.

We remain committed to providing new insights and solutions for social protection, making social protection floors a reality for all. Join us in supporting #WomensDay and UN Women in their efforts.



Cultural Sensitivity in Protecting and Promoting Child Rights

*The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of SPRI Global. It was originally published as part of the X-UNICEF NEWS & VIEWS newsletter.*



The DNA of cultural-sensitivity in protecting and promoting child rights

by Victor P. Karunan

A central challenge for all international development agencies working in diverse cultural and social contexts in both North and South is cultural-sensitivity in the local environments in which they work and implement their programmes. So too for UNICEF as the global leader in child rights. Perhaps even more so, because cultural-sensitivity is at the heart of understanding child development and working with families and communities in their given cultural context to protect and promote child rights. Anthropology – “as the science that studies human societies and their cultures in development” – therefore needs to be part of the DNA of UNICEF’s mission and work for children in every local and national context.

My concern as well as interest in this field is based on my academic background as an anthropologist and having served UNICEF at the national, regional and HQ levels for over 16 years. In the 1980s, I did my PhD on peasant movements in Asia with focus on local knowledge/wisdom, cultural context and grassroots activism. I thought when I joined UNICEF in 2000 in EAPRO-Bangkok that this background and expertise will be a great asset to promoting and protecting the rights of children in our Asian context. Sadly, I was wrong – the challenges I faced both from my “technical colleagues” in health, education, emergency (and even more so in later years in Innovation and Communication) – as well as by senior management to many ideas/proposals on the need for cultural sensitivity, understanding local history and knowledge and learning from it – were shunned as “traditional”, “outdated” and even deemed as “not new science”. On the contrary, I found increased understanding and like-mindedness among my national staff colleagues – they too struggle with the tensions of UNICEF’s “global (Western) culture” and their own “local cultures” and knowledge/wisdom – resulting in mis-understandings, tensions and conflicts between us – international staff – and our local/national staff. Furthermore, this “tension” also translates into how UNICEF works with government agencies and officials in many countries. I see this “tension” continuing even today in UNICEF.

To cite just one instance in HQ-NY. I had just moved as Chief of Adolescent Development and Participation in the Programme Division in 2004. Richard Morgan who was then just appointed as Programme Director (who BTW is also an anthropologist) asked the 60+ staff gathered in his first Programme Division staff meeting – “how many anthropologists do we have here?” – only two of us put up our hands – Richard and myself. That incident speaks directly to the message I want to convey in this article.

As Ronald van Dijk noted in the last X-UNICEF “News and Views” September 2018: “anthropology should become part of UNICEF’s program tools and how anthropological skills can provide knowledge of what is actually going on in rural, urban, and semi-urban communities where the millions of children who are the “raison d’être” of the organization live”.

Not only is it a fact that the number of staff with a background in anthropology in UNICEF are few and far between, whenever anything comes up about “culture” and “anthropology” in UNICEF, everyone talks about C4D (communication for development) – which as we know, is only a technical tool that is used in the periphery of UNICEF’s programming and not integrated at the core of its mandate and plan.

In my view, there are three major issues here that UNICEF needs to address:

Firstly, is the issue of lack of cultural sensitivity among UNICEF staff generally. The lack of cultural awareness within the UNICEF workforce explains why the very same staff do not see its significance in UNICEF programmes. Moreover, it is also reflected in the tensions and conflicts that arise between “international” and “national” staff in country offices – of which there are innumerable cases to be cited – from both minor ones that occur on a daily basis, to some cases which have resulted in wide press coverage and litigation as well. Even more, these tensions are not only played out within UNICEF country, regional offices and HQ divisions; it is also reflected in UNICEF staffs’ sensitive relationships and credibility with many Government agencies and local partners.

Secondly, is the issue that tradition, local wisdom and local norms and practices (anthropology) is often seen by UNICEF as “outdated”, “backward” and “regressive” to making a reality of the rights of the child in local settings and national contexts. In doing so, UNICEF unfortunately is not learning from some of the positive and rich local traditions and wisdom that should be the foundation on which it should be developing its national policies and programmes. As a result, in many country contexts, the “local ownership” of UNICEF programmes remains in question.

Finally – as a consequence of the above two factors – UNICEF tends, in many situations, to be viewed as an organisation that is “Western” and influenced more by the so-called “modern” theories of childhood and child development that is generally conceptualised and authored in the Global North by academics, universities and child rights organisations. As a result, many child right activists and academics in the Global South share my serious concern that their knowledge and wisdom based on their own cultural and social context is often ignored – if not outrightly negated – by UNICEF’s HQ-driven global policies and programme frameworks.

Moving forward, I do believe that UNICEF can claim to be a global leader in child rights if and only when it its mandate is reflected in credible local (national) ownership and cultural sensitivity becomes the DNA of its staff development and management practices.

We – as UNICEF retirees – can play a useful role in supporting UNICEF by offering our services for staff development and training in this area. I also believe there is the urgent need for knowledge generation and research in this area. It may be worth considering the possibility that – in collaboration with IRC-Florence – we could offer our services for research and knowledge exchange. In this regard, perhaps periodically bringing together academics, researchers, local leaders,adolescents/youth, grassroots movements for consultations – in the Strategic Global Programme priorities areas of UNICEF. I see the urgent need for such knowledge exchanges on cultural sensitivity especially in ECD, child marriage, breastfeeding, child labor, youth participation, among many others.

Some suggested next steps for UNICEF could be:
(a) Using more anthropology in UNICEF programmes
(b) Enhancing cultural awareness among senior management and staff
(c) Integrating cultural awareness and sensitivity in UNICEF’s HR policies – including staff development and orientation
(d) As retirees we can help UNICEF to “de-silo” UNICEF staff organisational structures.


*The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of SPRI Global. It was originally published as part of the X-UNICEF NEWS & VIEWS newsletter.*

Ethiopia Launches Multidimensional Child Deprivation Report Using UNICEF’s MODA Methodology


Ethiopia has experienced an impressive rate of economic growth during the last decade. Yet despite this high economic growth and its translation, by some extent, into social welfare improvements, the development process has not equally benefited the most vulnerable groups: Thirteen million children are estimated to live in poor households in Ethiopia, two million of whom live in extreme poverty. To escape the vicious circle of poverty and pave the way for achieving its vision to reach the level of middle income nation by 2025, Ethiopia has committed to deepening its understanding of the multiple dimensions of child poverty.

SPRI Global was happy to support UNICEF Ethiopia and the Central Statistics Agency (CSA) in this endeavor by carrying out a multidimensional child deprivation analysis, applying UNICEF Innocenti’s Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) methodology. The study will primarily serve to monitor Ethiopia’s progress in achieving goals and objectives of the development agenda commitments and gain a comprehensive understanding of different aspects of children’s deprivation and poverty.

Ethiopia ReportCentral Statistical Agency of Ethiopia and UNICE
Chris de Neubourg, Director of SPRI Global and Professor of Economics at Tilburg University, taking press and officials through the launch of the Multidimensional Child Deprivation in Ethiopia Report.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia were used to select the indicators and dimensions of children’s well-being following MODA’s rights-based approach. The analysis was carried out separately for children under 5 years and children aged 5-17 years to reflect differences in children’s needs through their life-cycle. Ethiopian Demographic and Health Surveys 2016 and 2011 were used for the analysis and to track the country’s progress in improving child well-being over the five-year period.

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This report provides evidence for monitoring SDG 1.2.2. Reducing poverty of men, women, and children of all ages in all its dimensions, and other targets of the Sustainable Development Agenda. The report’s results will advance understanding of multidimensional deprivation experienced by children of Ethiopia and help policy makers approach child poverty in an integrated and comprehensive manner, highlighting the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia and its development partners in enhancing evidence-based policy-making in the area of child poverty reduction.

The report is now accessible through UNICEF Ethiopia.

SPRI Global is currently also supporting UNICEF Ethiopia and the CSA in carrying out overlap analysis between monetary and multidimensional child poverty, which among others aims to identify the poorest and most vulnerable children in Ethiopia. The study will also use qualitative research to shed light into bottlenecks in provision of basic services.

Capacity Building at the National Level: Training the Instituto Nacional de Estatística in Angola

UNICEF Angola and the Ministry of Social Affairs, in partnership with a team of researchers from UCAN-CEIC, are in the process of defining and measuring national multidimensional child poverty, using UNICEF Innocenti’s Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) methodology. SPRI Global members are supporting this endeavor through ongoing technical assistance and capacity building efforts.

In December 2017, technical specialists from SPRI, supported by UNICEF, first facilitated a technical training for the application of MODA, in Luanda. The training was hosted by Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE) and participants of the training were select members of INE and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The capacity building began with an introductory training of the STATA software. This was followed by giving participants the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the application of MODA as a methodology for producing descriptive and analytical information on the extent and dynamics of multidimensional child poverty. The results of such analyses are essential in guiding the creation and implementation of horizontally and vertically equitable poverty reduction and child well-being promotion policies, programs and strategies.

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Building on these efforts, SPRI Global technical experts recently returned to Angola to stage the second phase of capacity building around multidimensional child poverty measurement. Members of INE were trained to use STATA in producing child poverty analyses using Angola’s IMMS (DHS) 2015 dataset. A bottom up approach was adopted that allowed technical staff to be fully immersed in the analytical process by understanding the concepts and data as well as the process of relating them to each other. Supported by the pool of MODA proficient technicians, INE management was then also trained in analyzing the study results. Additionally, a wide range of learning materials, such as training manuals (Stata and Stata for MODA) and result templates, were produced to ensure continuous progress.

The SPRI Global capacity-building agenda follows a holistic process that allows participants of training sessions to fully comprehend the key milestones in the implementation of child poverty studies.

SPRI Global Contribution in IPC-IG’s current Policy in Focus issue

We are happy to contribute to The International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth’s (IPC-IG) latest Policy in Focus issue, which presents a collection of 15 articles from leading scholars, researchers and policy practitioners, shedding light on the key challenges of promoting social protection programs for children.

Policy in Focus Cover.pngSocial protection comprises a set of public policy instruments aiming to reduce people’s exposure to risks, assist them in dealing with their consequences and enhance their attitudes, knowledge, skills and material resources so that they can actively contribute to the reduction of risk exposure and better deal with the consequences of bad luck and adverse shocks. Moreover, social protection should be understood as both an investment and an obligation to meet children’s rights. Organisations concerned with the latter, such as UNICEF, have long promoted a universal approach to social protection. Yet, while evidence points to the benefits of universal child grants, there is still much to be discussed in terms of gaps in knowledge. Irrespective of the type of social protection policy being considered, the articles in the latest Policy in Focus issue show that child poverty assessments can play a crucial role in informing the design of programs.

Our article explores how recent insights stemming from multidimensional child poverty research led to specific arguments in favor of child-sensitive social protection and a further elaboration of its focus. Read it now by downloading the report from IPC-IG.

Training UNICEF SA and Stats SA Staff in South Africa

Despite making great strides in transformation and development during the last two decades, South Africa continues to be plagued by poverty and inequality. While being ranked by the World Bank as an upper-middle income country, South Africa is judged by recent UNICEF data to be one of the most unequal societies in the world and its 19 million children bear the brunt of this disparity: A child growing up in the poorest home in South Africa is 17 times more likely to be hungry and 25 times less likely to be covered by medical schemes compared to a child growing up in the wealthiest household. A significant proportion of children live in poverty – 62.1 per cent of children live in households with a per capita income of less than R570 per month. These persistently high levels of inequalities in South Africa make child poverty increasingly complex.

Stats SA Class

Research is essential in defining this problem, establishing its extent and the processes by which it persists or arises and in informing possible interventions, while also assessing the effectiveness of these policy-oriented solutions. In this capacity, SPRI Global is assisting the national statistics office, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), and UNICEF South Africa in analyzing the state and complexity of Child Poverty in South Africa using the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) framework based on data from the Living Condition Survey collected in 2014-2015 (LCS 2014-2015). The main objective of the study is to measure and monitor the progress in child poverty in the country as per target 1.2 of the Sustainable Development Goal 1.

Stats SA

Technical staff from Stats SA and UNICEF SA have been trained to analyze the depth and extent of child poverty and to build an understanding of the findings in order to guide policy actions of the Government of South Africa in improving the situation of its nation’s children.

Stats SA Staff