Accepted paper:

Women, discipline and responsibility in Peru's Juntos program

Author:

Tara Cookson (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

CCT programs often produce deeply ironic circumstances: women must choose between seeking low-quality services and being branded as irresponsible. Drawing on ethnography I argue that an analysis of the maternalist element must account for constructed notions of responsible family life.

Paper long abstract:

In rural Peru, a social protection program called Juntos works to promote human capital. Small sums of money are given to poor mothers to "incentivize" them to seek healthcare and education for their children. The ostensibly family-oriented program transfers cash almost exclusively to women who are seen as more "responsible" than their male counterparts, undertaking the majority of care work and more likely to invest in the household.

One camp of analysts celebrate quantitative indicators which paint a picture of Juntos as a driver of access to services such as primary and secondary education, immunization, and pre and post-natal health checks. I am certainly not the first to argue that such statistics gloss over the often exceedingly poor quality of these services. Another camp of scholars have protested the reification of gender roles that see women as the primary bearers of the care burden, suggesting that this inhibits their own strategic gains. Given this, do the material benefits we may observe justify the maternalist focus on women as the lynch pins of this program?

The conditional arrangement of CCT programs often produces deeply ironic circumstances: women must choose between seeking low-quality services and being branded as irresponsible. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and the everyday experiences of Juntos recipients, in this paper I explore the CCT as a disciplining mechanism. I will argue that a just analysis of the maternalist element of CCT programs must account for the ways in which these programs construct notions of "responsible" and "irresponsible" family life.

panel P21
Challenging gendered instrumentalism in Latin American social policy?