Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Gender Equitable and Transformative Social Policy for Post-COVID-19 Africa (GETSPA): CALL FOR APPLICATIONS FOR A POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP

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The Institute of African Studies (IAS) at the University of Ghana, with funding support from the Open Society Institutes of Africa, is calling for proposals for two post-doctoral fellowships as part of its Gender Equitable and Transformative Social Policy for Post-Covid-19 Africa (GETSPA).

Social policies have over the years been often consigned to a residual category in policymaking. However, the recent experience of COVID-19 illustrates that policy responses in periods of crisis usually rely on social policies for improvements in the human condition. COVID-19 has shown that, while multi-level global crises affect all who live on the planet, both responses and impacts are highly differentiated and exacerbate gender, class and spatial inequalities. All over Africa, working people in rural and urban areas who are engaged in precarious work are facing existential challenges as a result of the contraction of economies and the limitations of state responses. These challenges are gendered. Measures such as lockdown and the closing of workplaces, educational institutions, and places of leisure and social engagements have underlined the importance of living spaces and reproductive activities.

The COVID situation has also brought into sharp relief the gender pay gap, the gender segmentation of paid work, and the burdens of reproductive and care work for women. There is also emerging evidence of a significant increase in gender-based violence. Furthermore, gender, class and spatial inequalities in access to education have come to the fore in several ways, including in the threat of increased attrition rates in education. With respect to health, there are risks that spending on reproductive health and other public health challenges will be sacrificed to COVID-19 expenditures. Such a change in focus could have negative impacts on maternal and under-5 mortality and morbidity, and result in a rise in women’s paid and unpaid care burdens for the sick as frontline health workers and in their own households.

Responses to the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 from state institutions—such as water and electricity subsidies for poor households, support for businesses and the augmentation of social protection programmes targeting the poor—have exposed the possibilities and limitations of social policy as currently constituted and created. Scholars of social development have over the years focused largely on social protection programmes or sectors such as education, health, water and sanitation, employment, and housing. Much of the discussion has been on questions of access and quality. Even fewer of such studies take on a gender equity perspective and almost none are interested in the economic policy dimensions of social development. These, coupled with a dearth of social policy expertise in Africa, create a compelling need for rethinking social policy and building constituencies that work for change in philosophies and approaches to social policy.

It is against this background that GETPSA is interested in understanding the framing and value propositions underpinning social policy; the assumptions about the role of the state, markets and society (the family and community); the interface between social and economic policies; and the socio-economic development outcomes of social policy, particularly in terms of gender, class and spatial inequalities. The project hopes to build on the outputs of this initial research a network and a programme of future research and constituency building activities toward the realization of an agenda for transformative and gender-equitable social policy for Africa’s development.

The project takes as its starting point Mkandawire’s expansive definition of social policy as the “collective interventions to directly affect social welfare, social institutions and social relations….concerned with the redistributive effects of economic policy, the protection of people from the vagaries of the market and the changing circumstances of age, the enhancement of the productive potential of members of society, and the reconciliation of the burden of reproduction with that to other social tasks. Successful societies have given social policies all these tasks, although the weighting of tasks has varied among countries and within each country, from period to period”.

Social policy is thus concerned with social welfare, social institutions, and social relations, and has both instrumental and intrinsic or normative value. This approach to social policy provides both a framing and a tool for assessing social policy in Africa.

The project locates its national studies in country socio-economic contexts, social welfare regimes and social policy priorities to ensure the widest applicability of the project’s findings and recommendations. Notwithstanding the increasing homogenisation of social policy instruments, there are significant differences in socio-economic contexts and social welfare regimes in Africa that have influenced the processes and outcomes of social policy.

Furthermore, the project takes up gender equity and the transformation of gender hierarchies as an overarching concern. This is to address the lack of interest in the gendered nature of social policy regimes and the gender inequalities in social development across the spectrum of social policy regimes. Although there are increasingly social policy instruments that target women and from which they derive welfare benefits, these do not necessarily challenge gender hierarchies, and may actively reinforce them. The neglect of gender issues in social policy is manifested by unexamined assumptions about the family and household; and the lack of attention to the gender segmentation of employment and the problematic gender norms that underpin paid and unpaid care work and social reproduction. Addressing these gaps in policymaking and the policy literature brings issues which are crucial to economic and social development into the conversation on social policy.

Aims of the Project

The overarching goal of this project is the transformation of the approaches to and cultures of social policymaking and implementation to establish Gender Equitable and Transformative Social Policy approaches in Africa.

The specific aims of the project are to:

• Map the current social policy landscape and its elements, opportunities, and challenges.
• Understand the interface between social and economic policies in African countries.
• Identify positive approaches to social policy in Africa and the global South, explaining why and how they work, and their potential for replicability.
• Design a framework for a reorientation of social policy.
• Grow a new generation of dedicated researchers of social policy.
• Capacitate constituencies to struggle for transformative social policy.
• Engage with policymakers and advocate for social change through transformative social policy.
• Build a repository of documentation on alternative approaches to social policy.

Duration of fellowship

The duration of the fellowship is eight (8) months—from 1 June 2021 to 31 January 2022.


• Applicants must have been awarded a doctoral degree from a recognized university within the past 5 years (not earlier than 2015).
• Applicants must also have a record of research/publication in social policy-related areas in African contexts.

Thematic areas for post-doctoral fellowship

Post-doctoral fellows will participate in the research and publications component of the project, specifically in producing papers that provide a pan-African, sub-regional or comparative perspectives on key issues and debates in social policy.
The following is an indicative list of themes that post-doctoral fellows could consider:
i. social and economic policy interface and synergies
ii. gender-equitable social policy
iii. politics and the democratic underpinnings of social policy
iv. key debates in the field social policy
v. new and neglected dimensions of social policy

This list is not exhaustive and, therefore, applicants are free to propose other themes relevant to a gender-equitable and transformative social policy agenda.

Terms of Reference for Selected Post-doctoral Fellows

• Work from their country of residence.
• Work in a cooperative manner with members of the GETSPATechnical Team, one of whom will be assigned as a primary supervisor.
• Assume primary responsibility for the development of their research.
• Participate in project conferences and seminars.
• Produce papers for publication.
• Assist the lead investigators with editing issue papers and reports.
• Any other tasks needed for the successful execution of the project.
• The monthly honorarium is $1,000 (inclusive).

Format of Applications

Applicants must submit the following documentations:
• proof of award of degree
• a CV
• a 3- to 4-page concept note: a statement of the primary areas of interest the applicant intends to work on during the fellowship period and a clear timeline of activities and outputs
• two letters of reference


Deadline for applications: 15 May 2021
Notification to successful applicants: 25 May 2021
Start date of fellowship: 1 June 2021

Submission and enquiries

Email applications and/or enquiries to GETSPA PIs at
The subject field should include the phrase “GETSPA post-doc”.