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Keywords:

  • conditional cash transfers;
  • gender;
  • Latin America

The Latin American literature on Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) welfare programs has typically involved the quantitative evaluation of social and economic impact, with fewer studies addressing the qualitative and gendered impacts of CCTs. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in poor squatter settlement communities in Uruguay, this article explores the everyday social realities of poor single mothers who have been disconnected from their kinship networks and must rely on CCT payments for survival. I locate these women's experiences within the third-way neoliberal discourses of ‘empowerment’, ‘participation’ and ‘self-help’ espoused by the state, and the various structural conditions, including crime, violence and unequal gender relations, that impact negatively on women's abilities to comply with their social and civic duties. I argue that rather than producing responsible and empowered subjects, Uruguay's recent CCT welfare program has paradoxically limited some women's participation in civic and public life and reproduced their dependent relations with men.