This mixed methods paper explores social inclusion of poor women and children in Niger and Malawi. We identify social inclusion outcomes focused primarily on access to education and health, and supported by gendered processes of inclusion in economic and financial activities. This point of departure allows us to understand how social and economic processes affect social inclusion outcomes in health and education of poor and near-poor children. There are cases where economic services like financial inclusion are quite strong among women, and others where they are not, which has varying effects on the social inclusion of children. The paper examines the gendered intersection of these spheres and policies to promote social inclusion and consequently both social cohesion and sustained poverty reduction.
A key message of this study is that despite much higher levels of human development investment in Malawi than Niger, economic inclusion is needed in both countries to activate inclusion in human development services and better outcomes. For children to be socially included in education and health, their mothers need to be economically included and households need to be supportive. The economic inclusion women benefitted and derived agency from was sometimes a product of the entire household, through the channel of improved welfare and assets, or through targeted assistance or permanent employment in the context of otherwise vulnerable marital arrangements in both countries. It was crucially the interactive process of a supportive household with women’s economic inclusion that fostered socially inclusive outcomes for children.
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