Background and Methodology
Many countries in Latin America and Caribbean use conditional cash transfer programmes with the objective of advancing sustainable human development, including poverty and disparity reduction. The government implemented, national ‘Juntos’ programme, in Peru is an example of such an initiative in the region. This programme, created in 2005, targets extremely poor families, with children younger than 14 years or with pregnant women. A monthly cash transfer of 100 Peruvian Soles (around US$ 32.50) is provided for a period of four years when these families comply with conditions related to health, nutrition, education and birth registration. The Peruvian government requested UNICEF and UNFPA to analyse perceptions of the population regarding: a) access of the most vulnerable families to the programme; b) use of the cash transfers; and c) behavioural change among the beneficiaries. Information was obtained through in-depth and semi-structured interviews among the various stakeholders in the implementation of the programme, as well as 24 focus group discussions, and observations within the six selected rural low income districts.
In terms of access to the programme, it was found that indeed the poorest families are the beneficiaries, therefore demystifying the public perception that targeting is not appropriate. There is however, discontent with the targeting process and it is not understood why not all poor families benefit from the programme. The use of cash transfers is generally responsible and in line with the intention of the ‘Juntos’. Most funds are used for the purchase of food and, depending on the time in the year, on school materials, uniforms and shoes. There are only very few cases where funds were used for purposes other than intended. Also, in this case, the evaluation contradicted the public perception with clear evidence. It was also found, that the amount of cash transfer is not sufficient to generate substantial changes in living condition of beneficiaries. Benefiting families generally try to meet the conditions of the programme, primarily in order to continue receiving cash transfers, out of conviction that this is in the best interest of the child and the mother. There is, however, discomfort with the additional conditions that some local representatives require for enrollment. The evaluation also countered public opinion on misuse of ‘Juntos’ as the programme proves not to be substituting for regular salaries and conditions for enrolling in the programme (e.g. there are no women getting pregnant in order to be able to enroll in ‘Juntos’). Finally, it was found that the implementation of ‘Juntos’ is experiencing weak coordination between the various stakeholders, particularly at the local level. This evaluations demystifies all ‘myths’ regarding the programme, but confusion and disinformation on ‘Juntos’ remains among civil servants at national and local levels, as well as among beneficiaries of the programme and the population in general, as ‘Juntos’ is perceived as a form of social assistance, rather than as a tool for strengthening human capital and as a strategy for poverty reduction.
In order to create a better understanding of the programme, it is recommended to review the selection process for enrolment in ‘Juntos’ and to assess the possibility to enroll also the slightly less poor, in the case of very small communities in order to avoid conflict among beneficiaries and no-beneficiaries. It would also be useful to have a more in-depth understanding of the characteristics of the beneficiaries in order to propose more culturally sensitive conditions for enrolling. In relation to the implementation of the programme, it is suggested to improve coordination between the various sectors involved, and to create the conditions for better coordination and effectiveness at the local level. Strengthening the capacity of the local staff is highly recommended, especially to promote human rights perspectives among beneficiaries. Moreover, the additional conditions posed by some of the local staff should be closely monitored in order to avoid abuse of power by these officials. Finally, it would be highly beneficial to create a wider range of partners, such as civil society organizations, international cooperation partners and media, at national- and local - levels for the implementation of the programme. Together, with clearer and expanded communication efforts and messages, this will also further reduce the myths and misperceptions around ‘Juntos’.
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