Author Archives: kristiphilips12

Exploring State-Civil Society Interactions in Buenos Aires

Philips - Argentina - asignacion universal

ANSES relies heavily on technology. Each of the recipients I interviewed first learned about the program by TV advertisements. Those who qualify can enroll and set appointments via text message.

It is hard to believe how fast my month of research passed. While in Buenos Aires, I worked at a local ANSES office to learn about the effects of Asignacion Universal por Hijo (AUH), a conditional cash transfer, on women’s empowerment. Interviewing recipient women brought me to see that, in many cases, the grant helps empower a recipient woman by way of strengthening her identity as a mother and enhancing her sense of self-fulfillment. Recipient women told me again and again how AUH helped them to feel that they could now be the mother they had always hoped to be. With the help of the grant, a woman is able provide the food, school supplies, clothing, and other basic needs for her children. The women I interviewed emphasized that they want the best for their children, and without the financial help of the grant each month, many recipient families cannot always afford many things for their children, including a balanced diet or clothes and shoes that properly fit. While the monetary value of the grant is small (about 40 USD per child), the impact it has on low-income families is substantial. With the grant, many families find that they can afford send the children to school where they will learn, make friends, and grow up equipped to be in a better economic position than the previous generation.

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Searching in Buenos Aires: a Story from the Field on Hunting for Contacts, Answers, and Conclusions

Philips-Argentina-BusStop

Ready for a bus ride across town.

Last year’s Tinker grant recipients stressed the importance of persistence while in the field. For the most part, I’ve been getting in touch with exactly the contacts I’d been hoping to find, but some people have been more difficult to track down. What really brought me to my research question, whether or not Asignacion Universal por Hijo empowers women, was an annual report put out by a private organization indicating that deaths from domestic violence are on the rise in Argentina. I wondered if this had any connection to the implementation of AUH, so I come to Buenos Aires with high hopes of meeting with the director of the organization. She was quite difficult to hunt down, but when I finally did get to meet with her, she shared some great information with me. Persistence in the field really does pay off! 

When I first arrived in Buenos Aires, I got in touch with a woman named Majo who has a great network of people working on social programs and women’s rights in the local area. Majo has been an incredible help in getting me directly connected with all the right people. I had tried calling and emailing the research organization several times with no response. Majo had not been able to get in touch with anyone at the center either, so she suggested that I accompany her to her weekly meeting the last two Wednesdays. Every week, the Buenos Aires Legislature hosts a meeting of approximately 35 women’s rights-based organizations where these groups can collaborate, plan events and awareness campaigns, and all stay in touch about developments in women’s rights in Argentina. Majo said that the founder of the research organization attended this weekly meeting, so I was excited to finally have an in. Continue reading

The Politics of Empowerment in Buenos Aires

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A poster describing how to enroll in AUH.

My work is on a social program in Argentina called, Asignación Universal por Hijo para la Protección Social (AUH), a conditional cash transfer (CCT) implemented by presidential decree in late 2009. Under the program, the government uses a portion of income tax and sales tax to provide monthly transfers to poor families that are unemployed, informally employed, or who do domestic work and make less than a livable wage. Families receive $160 pesos (roughly $40 USD) per child ages 0-18, for up to five children. The money is given directly to the mother each month and is received under the condition that the family verifies children’s school attendance and medical checkups. It is designed to incentivize education for the poor population and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty via human capital accumulation.

In addition to drastic inequality and high rates of poverty, Argentina has a high rate of domestic violence. My work is focusing on whether transferring the money directly to mothers is empowering to women by giving them more financial control, helping them leave abusive homes, etc. or limits female agency by reenforcing traditional gender roles and providing a point of contention between a husband and wife regarding household finances. If there are negative consequences associated with the distribution system of the grant, a change in the structure of the policy could reduce domestic violence and save the lives of women. If the current system empowers women, there could be good reason to continue and expand the program. It could also incentivize collaborative work on finding additional funding sources.  Continue reading