Empowering Women as Mothers? Conditional Cash Transfers and Gender Approach to AKP's Social Policy
Keywords:social policy, AKP, poverty, women, mother, neoliberal, conservative, conditional cash transfer
This paper looks at the gender aspect of social policy provision in Turkey during the AKP government period—through an emphasis on the ways in which women are positioned within the anti-poverty programs. It focuses on conditional cash transfers (CCTs), as the leading and most emphasized poverty alleviation program of the AKP government. The paper subjects the CCTs—in general and the Turkish CCT program in particular—to a gender perspective. It demonstrates how CCTs are representative of the AKP’s social conservative and neoliberal approach to social policy especially with regard to the roles that are assigned to women. It further argues that the double-sidedness in AKP’s policies in terms of gender equality is observed in the case of the CCTs. Although at the discursive level, there is an emphasis on empowerment of women by this program, the ways in which the program is structured leads to the reinforcement of women’s domestic roles. Especially the transfer of money to mothers is presented as an aspect of the program that empowers women. However, receiving the cash transfer in their capacity as mothers, in fact, strengthens essentialist thinking about the traditional responsibilities of women (and men). CCTs, as programs that depend on the neoliberal social risk management approach to poverty, target poor family as the main institution that is responsible for dealing with the future risks that the individuals will encounter. Not only the responsibility for social protection is shifted to the family, but by determining the mother as the recipient of the transfer, woman in her capacity as the mother is defined as the main party that has responsibility for getting out of poverty and managing social risks. Hence this paper argues that for AKP, with its neoliberal and conservative orientations, CCT has been a perfectly-fitting social assistance program.
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