Book award for study of cash transfer programmes

  • March 13, 2019
Book award for study of cash transfer programmes

Tara Cookson has won a prestigious award for her book on the hidden costs of cash transfer programmes.

The book is an elegantly written and accessible portrait of how rural women in Peru experience and cope with the often hidden and detrimental socioeconomic demands of a much-heralded development programme.

American Association of Geographers

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious book award for her 'outstanding' book on cash transfer programmes.

Tara Cookson [2011] won the American Association of Geographers' Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography for her book Unjust Conditions: Women’s Work and the Hidden Cost of Cash Transfer Programs, published by the University of California Press.

The book, based on Tara's PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge, follows poor mothers in rural Peru, documenting the ordeals they face to participate in Conditional Cash Transfer [CCT] programmes which are aimed at poverty alleviation. CCTs have been championed by behavioural economists and the World Bank and praised as efficient mechanisms for changing poor people's behaviour.

The book argues that, while these programmes are rooted in good intentions for social inclusion, the claim that they are efficient is based on a handful of narrow metrics that render significant gendered costs invisible.

The AAG award is given for a book written or co-authored by a geographer that conveys most powerfully the nature and importance of geography to the non-academic world.

The AAG describes Tara's book as "an elegantly written and accessible portrait of how rural women in Peru experience and cope with the often hidden and detrimental socioeconomic demands of a much-heralded development programme."

It praises Tara's careful, self-aware ethnographic methods and says the book "presents a powerful counter-argument to the fashionable yet problematic practice of “data-driven development” and that it "should be required reading for students, scholars, the general public, and – most importantly – practitioners of development searching for innovative and socially just alternatives to conventional development thinking".

The awardees will be formally recognised during the 2019 AAG Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in April.

Tara is  Co-founder and Director of Ladysmith, a feminist research consultancy that helps international development organisations collect, analyse and take action on gender data.  She is also a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia.

*The book's Open Access version is available here. Picture credit of woman and baby in the hills above Lima: Ian Riley from Brentwood, TN, USA, courtesy of Creative Commons.


Tara Cookson

Tara Cookson

  • Alumni
  • Canada
  • 2011 PhD Geography
  • Wolfson College

I am a gender and international development researcher and consultant. I completed PhD studies at the University of Cambridge Geography Department, as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and a member of Wolfson College. My work focuses on gender and development, inequality, feminist political economy, and geography. My doctoral research asked how low-income women in rural Peru are impacted by conditional cash transfer programs, termed by the Economist "the world's favourite new anti-poverty device". In 2013 I founded a leadership training program to support multi-disciplinary, aspiring leaders with practical skills. Called Learning for Purpose, the program is now a foundational element of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and I received the Bill Gates Sr award for this work. I have previously worked as a project developer for community-based human rights organizations in both Canada and Latin America, collaborating on planning and executing campaigns and projects to promote the interests and wellbeing of low-income and otherwise marginalized communities in five countries. I enjoy public speaking and consulting on global development and women in leadership.

Previous Education

University of Toronto M.A. Women and Gender Studies 2010
University of British Columbia B.A. International Relations, Spanish 2009


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