Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Gender
Posted on August 20, 2012 by B. Tsolmon and L. Gerelmaa, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia
Severe winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has become a major concern for the city’s 1.3 million residents, which is nearly half the country’s total population. A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from districts populated with gers, traditional Mongolian houses where lower-income households live.
Women head many of these ger households. They rely on burning raw coal in inefficient stoves to heat the poorly insulated gers—a primary source of the city's air pollution, which fuels environmental and health risks and causes economic impacts. To address this concern, a facility was established within the scope of the compact's Energy and Environment Project to fund financial incentives and technical assistance for adopting cleaner, more efficient technologies for use in heating the gers.
The project’s particular and positive impact on gender issues recently gained international attention with the July 2012 visit of Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as part of a women’s empowerment conference held in Mongolia.
Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to Norovkhand and her family in the Bayanzurkh district outside Ulaanbaatar. Norovkhand obtained a subsidized energy efficient stove through MCA-Mongolia, the local entity managing compact implementation. Norovkhand, a single mother of three and a grandmother of one, shared her experiences on how much coal she has saved in using her new stove, compared with the traditional stove she used previously.
Most importantly, the energy-efficient stove, she said, simplifies routine housework since it requires less fueling, generates less ash and is easy to clean.
“It is very affordable and accessible especially for female-headed households like us, given the subsidies provided by the project,” she said.
Norovkhand’s family is also among potential beneficiaries of the hashaa (yard) plot privatization and registration activity under the compact’s Property Rights Project. With their land formally registered, Norovkhand’s family and many others will have an opportunity to access bank credit, enabling them to make more productive use of their plots.
MCA-Mongolia is tracking the longer-term impacts of increased asset ownership through its monitoring and evaluation work, which also includes a complementary qualitative survey on how increasing asset ownership among women impacts household dynamics.
To track the difference the compact is making for Mongolians at both household and national levels, a number of gender-responsive actions are underway across the program to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from the compact, which is key for sustainable development and economic growth of benefit for all.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director
This June, I traveled to Pissila, in the Sanmatega province of Burkina Faso. I was there to attend the closing ceremony for the Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed (BRIGHT) II Project, funded through the MCC compact with Burkina Faso. Speaking with students, teachers and parents participating in the BRIGHT II Project, I truly experienced firsthand the benefits of MCC’s investment.
The BRIGHT program is a collaborative effort of the United States and Burkina Faso to improve rates of children’s primary school attendance, completion, and promotion to secondary schools. To date, the program, including work performed under the MCC compact, has educated over 27,000 students, including 16,000 girls, and has built 132 primary schools across 10 provinces. The numbers are impressive—but they don’t tell the whole story.
In Pissila, the success and visibility of the BRIGHT program was evident from the high-level participation at the well-attended closing ceremony. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Luc Adolphe Tiao; the Minister of Education and Literacy, Koumba Boly; and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty were all on hand to share in the celebration. Officials from MCC, USAID, and Plan International were also present. The stars of the show, however, were the 500 students from the BRIGHT school of Pissila, who were as proud as could be to show off their school and accomplishments.
We arrived early on Thursday morning to enthusiastic cheers and waves from students of all ages. Three large tents were set up at the center of the school, flanked by new classrooms, offices and teacher housing. Boys and girls, waving American and Burkinabé flags and proudly wearing their school shirts displaying the BRIGHT II emblem, greeted the prime minister and U.S. ambassador as they arrived. The atmosphere radiated with excitement and joy; students and teachers alike were proud that their school had been selected to host such an event.
The moving speeches and lively performances diverted our attention from the hot Burkina Faso sun and 100+ degree temperatures. Enthralling music and traditional dances had the whole crowd applauding, especially for the youngest dancer in a local troupe who was able to shake the prime minister’s hand. Later, Celia Ella Kafando, a fifth-grader, courageously took to the podium to make a speech on behalf of the students of Pissila.
Though her head barely reached the top of the podium, Celia spoke with a clear and strong voice, thanking MCC and the American people for building her school. To the visible enjoyment of the prime minister, the education minister (one of Burkina Faso’s two female ministers) and the region’s governor (also a woman), Celia shared that many of her fellow students aspired to become governors and ministers thanks to their education. Everyone smiled when the prime minister and education minister were given the “key” to the school, a beautiful, symbolic oversized key made by Burkinabe bronze workers.
The prime minister’s speech was unexpectedly touching and honest. Speaking directly to the students, he admitted that school was not always easy, recognizing that most of them had to move away from home, learn a new language (though French is the official language, over 60 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso) and—perhaps the most universal problem of all—wake up early to get to class. He encouraged the students not to give up and to follow their dreams. Ambassador Dougherty echoed these sentiments in his speech, stating, “We hope each and every BRIGHT school graduate will have success in realizing their potential in the years to come.”
Though two more years remain until the compact’s end, it was encouraging to see such a successful closeout of this project. The Government of Burkina Faso has pledged to maintain the schools and remain committed to supporting girls’ education. In the words of Prime Minister Tiao, “The American people can trust us. We will take care to meet the challenges of underdevelopment.”
For more information about the Burkina Faso Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/burkinafaso.
Posted on July 17, 2012 by B. Tsolmon, MCA gender specialist and focal point, and L. Gerelmaa, MCA gender specialist and focal point
MCA-Mongolia’s commitment to gender integration in its compact has received praise on both sides of the Pacific.
We represented MCA-Mongolia at the inaugural MCC Forum on Global Development in April for receiving the Country Commitment Award. To commemorate this achievement, the Mongolian prime minister hosted a high-profile event in May to celebrate the accomplishment in our country as well.
“We can now witness a tangible impact on the lives of thousands of Mongolians as a result of the compact,” Prime Minister Sükhbaataryn Batbold said at the event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.
Not only are stakeholders in the U.S. now aware of the positive strides we’ve made with gender integration, but also ministers, cabinet members, and members of the public and press who attended the event in Ulanbaataar.
A compact beneficiary, Javzan T., shared her experiences and expressed her gratitude to MCC and MCA-Mongolia. Javzan T. is a single mother of eight who benefitted from the compact’s Property Rights Project by having exclusive rights to lease more than 600 hectares of rangeland.
“It is a great opportunity for us to develop our livestock business,” she said. “I would like to express my appreciation to the American people, who have stretched their helping hands to us from such a far place.”
We are very proud to champion the integration of gender considerations across a wide range of operational areas in the Mongolia Compact, including program implementation, communications and monitoring and evaluation. We conducted gender trainings with our program implementation units and contractors and established points of contact on gender issues in each unit. These measures are being reflected in more equitable benefits and have resulted in greater land ownership among women, herder training tailored to both women’s and men’s needs, and health interventions that are mindful of women’s and men’s needs in our communities.
Posted on May 31, 2012 by Alain Diouf, MCA-Senegal Property Rights and Land Policy Director , and Kent Elbow, MCC Property Rights and Land Policy Specialist
We knew we were on to something in Senegal—that what we learned about the role customary land rights can play in alleviating poverty was worth sharing with the wider land practice community.
In recent years, many African governments have developed legislation to recognize the legitimacy of informal (mostly unwritten) customary rights to land. Governments have introduced a variety of legislative tools to formalize, protect and secure those rights. Each country brings a different approach to this, but in many instances the process helps lay the foundation for increased economic development.
Customary land rights are the starting point of any formalization initiative, which isn’t easy. We need to help contribute to economic objectives while preserving or enhancing the rights and interests of the powerless. We do this in two main ways.
The first task is to identify the holders of customary rights, which requires recognizing categories like individual and collective rights. Analyses of community resources, such as pastures and forests, need to include detailed socio-economic information. Where community land-use plans do not yet exist, we identify various interests and base our approach on the active participation of all parties in working toward a consensus on how existing rights are to be presented and preserved during the formalization process.
The Land Tenure Security Activity, funded by Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact, is working in the Senegal River Valley to determine the boundaries between agriculture and livestock while also accounting for the areas where the two overlap. MCA-Senegal will act upon some of the decisions negotiated during the first phase of the activity—such as the boundaries of cattle trails through agricultural land leading to water points—by planting trees.
The second major element of a successful formalization program is ensuring that fairness remains a dominant principle in ongoing and future land allocation. Formalization is not just identifying rights and issuing corresponding pieces of paper. Mechanisms must be developed and activated to provide for the exchange and reallocation of land rights so resources can be put to their most productive use while ensuring that rights are protected. Governance of land allocation works best when it is transparent, democratic and participatory.
The Land Tenure Security Activity in Senegal is demonstrating that existing customary land rights can be comprehensively identified and documented—if one incorporates careful design and planning, inclusive methodologies, copious work, and adequate time. It is also demonstrating that local land allocation principles and processes can be developed and recognized as legitimate if all stakeholders are given a voice in their development.
Yes, customary land rights are messy—but protecting customary land rights while moving toward a more formal land management system is both fair and economically productive. An even more fundamental goal must be to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the more permanent institutions of land governance. In the Senegal River Valley, land is governed at the community level, and there are positive signs that previously unheard voices are now finding a stage.
“These workshops have changed us as well as our community decision-makers,” the president of a women’s producer group said after a community workshop. “We no longer hesitate to speak our minds and address the Rural Council. This is a new situation for us.”
MCC, the Government of Senegal and MCA-Senegal are excited about the good work that has been accomplished and are committed to continuing to learn and share our learning with land practitioners facing similar challenges around the world.
Posted on April 25, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This post first appeared on Visa Viewpoints, the official blog of Visa Inc., on April 25, 2012.
Since 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has been leading the fight against global poverty. As an innovative and independent U.S. development assistance agency, we are changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart assistance by focusing on good policies, country-owned development solutions and results. Our success rests in large part on our ability to forge successful partnerships for sustainable development. This means partnering with countries around the world, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and other government agencies.
One lesson we know for sure: Assistance alone is not enough. What will be enough to tip the scale toward sustainable growth is the innovation and investment driven by the private sector. The private sector creates jobs and new products. The private sector is where entrepreneurs are born and thrive. And, the growth, investment, trade, and business generated by the private sector will help lift people out of poverty.
Today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation convenes our first Forum on Global Development. This will be a unique occasion for visionaries and practitioners in international development to meet, exchange ideas and honor three outstanding awardees for their work on gender integration, investment and innovation.
On behalf of MCC, I am proud that we will recognize Visa as the recipient of our first Corporate Award for demonstrating exemplary commitment to eradicating poverty in the developing world. We are impressed with Visa’s commitment to advancing financial inclusion by leveraging its core business along with innovation, strategic partnerships and financial literacy. We applaud Visa’s public-private partnership with the Government of Rwanda, including the extensive Charter of Collaboration as well as partnerships with organizations such as Women’s World Banking and GSMA mWomen, to advance financial access for women and their efforts to bring financial literacy education to millions of people worldwide.
In the global fight against financial exclusion and poverty, no single organization has all the answers. But through innovative solutions from—and partnerships among—governments, the private sector and civil society, we are making a difference.
Posted on March 30, 2012 by Daniel Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Today’s release of MCC’s 2011 Annual Report, appropriately titled Gateway to Opportunity, captures the milestones of the past year and articulates clear priorities moving forward. In the report, you can read about the significant strides we have made in delivering results, forging partnerships with countries and civil society, and championing policy reforms to create opportunities for sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. This foundation allows us now to expand our work not just to help poor countries rise out of poverty and break the cycle of aid dependency but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States, which means more jobs here at home.
By incentivizing the right policy conditions and generating an enabling environment for growth, MCC builds a Gateway to Opportunity for American businesses interested in exporting to or doing business in these next generation emerging markets as they climb out of poverty. Because of this, MCC’s mission is key to Secretary of State Clinton’s 21st century economic statecraft and President Obama’s efforts to put in place an American economy that is “built to last.” MCC is pushing the envelope on development effectiveness and sustainability through our commitment to transparency, accountability, results, policy reform, and country-driven solutions.
MCC’s approach has not gone unnoticed. A November 2011 Fortune Magazine article concludes that MCC “certainly gives the taxpayer real bang for the buck.” A recent MarketWatch commentary by Thomas Kostigen arguing for a robust MCC budget sums up the impact best: “MCC deserves its fair share so the U.S. can gain its fair share in the emerging markets. The global impact of these investments comes back to us all in the form of food, jobs, more open markets for trade, and doing good and right by others. It’s a boomerang effect.”
We agree, and we’re committed to showcasing even more investment and procurement opportunities for U.S. businesses in the months ahead to ensure the full “boomerang effect” of positive impact for the world’s poor as well as American businesses and workers.
In Zambia, MCC’s newest compact brings clean water and improved sanitation and drainage services to more than one million residents
Posted on March 26, 2012 by Raja Kaul, MCC Resident Country Director, Zambia
Last Thursday, the MCC Board of Directors approved a $355 million compact with Zambia that focuses on the water sector in Lusaka. MCC investments are expected to have a significant impact on the lives of more than one million Lusaka residents by improving their health and economic productivity and helping the country reduce poverty on a sustainable basis. Fittingly, the Board’s decision fell on the annual UN-designated World Water Day.
This single-sector compact aims to address one of the Zambia’s most binding constraints to economic growth through infrastructure investment in the rapidly urbanizing capital city of Lusaka. It is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of water-related disease, decrease the number of productive days lost due to disease and time to collect water, lower costs of water and new sanitation, and reduce flood losses for businesses and residential homes.
In addition to investments in water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure, MCC’s integrated investment will also support the government’s ongoing water sector reform efforts by strengthening responsible institutions. The investment is expected to significantly benefit Lusaka’s poor, as 73 percent of the more than one million Zambian beneficiaries currently have incomes below $2 per day.
The Zambia compact will promote key MCC corporate priorities, including gender and social integration, environmental and social impact assessments, and private sector development. In the Zambia compact, social and gender integration is prioritized, and activities are designed to extend project benefits to women and vulnerable groups.
Since its inception in 1993, World Water Day has served to spotlight the global challenge to provide safe water and sanitation services to those living in poverty. So far, MCC has invested $793 million in WASH-related projects in nine partner countries, and MCC’s compacts with Cape Verde, Jordan, and Mozambique, like Zambia, focus primarily on water sector development. Our growing WASH portfolio reflects our partner countries’ recognition of the important role of access to clean, affordable, and reliable water in promoting economic growth.
For more information on MCC’s water and sanitation projects, visit www.mcc.gov/water.
Posted on March 8, 2012 by MCC, Washington, DC
At MCC, we believe empowering men, women, boys, and girls is critical to sustainable poverty reduction.
MCC is committed to ensuring that gender is considered in all stages of its work with partner countries, from country selection and policy reform to project development and implementation.
Today, we published an updated fact sheet, "MCC's Commitment to Gender Equality."
Andria Hayes-Birchler in MCC's Department of Policy and Evaluation posted a blog entry about MCC's new "Gender in the Economy" indicator, which builds on MCC’s groundbreaking Gender Policy by recognizing the relationship between growth, poverty reduction and gender equality..
We also published a story about Emilia Kambonde, a rural farmer in Namibia who is taking advantage of an MCC compact program to export her community's indigenous natural products to global markets.
In the slideshow above, real people—MCC beneficiaries, employees, and MCA staff—share their views on gender equality. We want to hear from you, too: Leave your comments below.
Posted on March 8, 2012 by Andria Hayes-Birchler, Development Policy Officer
In the fall of 2011, MCC updated its selection system in part to incorporate new (and exciting!) data developed since MCC was established. Several new indicators were added to take advantage of data innovation in fields such as Internet freedom, credit markets and gender equity. One of these is called “gender in the economy,” which uses data from IFC’s “Women, Business and the Law” report to assess whether women and men have equal legal rights to participate in 10 economic activities, such as signing a contract, registering a business and choosing where to live.
By encouraging countries to adopt laws that allow both men and women to participate fully in the economy, this indicator helps ensure that everyone can benefit from MCC projects and economic growth. The gender in the economy indicator serves as an excellent proxy for issues covered by MCC’s own Gender Policy and has been received with great support from many MCC stakeholders.
At the time it was adopted, IFC expressed its intention to expand the dataset over the coming years to cover all low-income and lower-middle income countries; at the time, it covered only about two-thirds of low and lower-middle income countries. Sierra Leone became the first country to benefit from this expansion. After seeing an “n/a” on this indicator, the Government of Sierra Leone worked with MCC and the IFC to request inclusion in the dataset. The IFC was responsive, and within months had analyzed Sierra Leone’s legal framework.
Sierra Leone’s efforts resulted in a dataset that shows no inequalities in the law on the 10 activities measured by this indicator—and as a result, Sierra Leone passes the gender in the economy indicator.
The Government of Sierra Leone’s efforts didn’t stop there.
Sierra Leone passed seven indicators on its most recent scorecard, and the government has vowed to perform better in the future. They established a desk in Freetown dedicated to coordinating communication between government officials and MCC, as well as maintaining contact with the third-party institutions from which we draw our indicator data. The desk is also tracking progress on indicators like control of corruption, which Sierra Leone passed for the first time this year after a dramatic two-year improvement. Sierra Leone’s efforts in fighting corruption have been recognized in many venues—including the MCC scorecard.
Posted on November 21, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
With great hope that we can transform the lives of Indonesia’s poor for the better, I joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indonesia’s Finance Minister Martowardojo, along with other distinguished government ministers, ambassadors and guests, for the signing of Indonesia’s $600 million MCC compact in Bali this past Saturday. As Secretary Clinton said, each of the elements of the compact represents a step forward in the relationship between the United States and Indonesia. I am proud that MCC is partnering with the Indonesians to achieve their goals for long-term poverty reduction and economic growth.
MCC’s investments in low-carbon economic development, better natural resources management, nutrition to prevent childhood stunting, and procurement modernization create new opportunities to improve the quality of life for Indonesians. Our partnership will work to raise productivity, increase household incomes, reduce household energy costs, and improve the delivery of growth-enhancing goods and services by the public sector. I am struck by how open the Indonesians have been to MCC’s distinct model for development—one that is country-driven, reform-centered and results-focused to maximize effectiveness and sustainability. This innovative compact embodies Indonesia's priorities and its strong commitment to our partnership.
As I shared with the Indonesians, much hard work awaits us. Our partnership must now turn the inspiration of a momentous signing into the implementation of an action plan that will deliver lasting impact. Through an unfaltering commitment to tangible results, accountability and transparency, we can achieve the full promise of the compact. Let’s get to work.
Posted on November 18, 2011 by Cassandra Butts, MCC Senior Advisor
When the Millennium Challenge Corporation released its hallmark policy scorecards last week, the occasion marked several firsts for us. In addition to transitioning to a new scorecard system, gender equality is elevated now as a key indicator in determining country eligibility and selection for MCC investments.
MCC remains at the forefront of prioritizing gender equality as key to effective development. Our success to date has been in first recognizing gender inequality as a constraint to economic growth and then integrating and operationalizing gender analyses in our work to maximize the effectiveness and sustainability of our investments to reduce poverty through growth. The new “Gender in the Economy” indicator takes this work to another level.
The “Gender in the Economy” indicator, one of eight indicators on the MCC scorecard measuring economic freedom, assesses a government’s commitment to promoting gender equality by providing women and men with the same legal ability to interact with the private and public sectors. Specifically, the indicator measures the legal capacity of married and unmarried women to execute 10 economic activities: get a job, register a business, sign a contract, open a bank account, choose where to live, get passports, travel domestically and abroad, pass citizenship on to their children, and become heads of households. The International Finance Corporation’s Women, Business and the Law report is the source for the information included in this indicator.
MCC’s own work in advancing gender equality provides a striking example of the progress that can be made by linking a similar set of rights to our compact process. In 2006, MCC worked with the Government of Lesotho to ensure that the minority legal status of women, which had created similar economic inequalities, was removed in law before compact signing. As a result of the government’s embrace of this policy reform and other efforts, Lesotho now ranks in the world’s top ten in closing its economic gender gap according to the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap Index.
The “Gender in the Economy” indicator builds on MCC’s groundbreaking Gender Policy by recognizing the relationship among growth, poverty reduction and gender equality. Quite simply, the indicator identifies legally sanctioned gender inequality as negatively impacting a country’s economic growth because it prevents a large portion of the population from fully participating in the economy. What is exciting about the indicator is its potential to generate greater awareness of this critical issue while creating a powerful incentive for improved policy performance in partner countries and other developing countries seeking MCC investment.
As the U.S. Government continues to further its commitment to gender equality and to improving the economic rights of women and men around the world, we at MCC are proud to deepen our efforts through this emphasis on gender equality in our country selection process. And with this focus, we look forward to realizing even greater development achievements.
Posted on March 9, 2011 by Chelsea Coakley, Program Officer Tanzania
During a recent trip to Tanzania, I traveled with MCA-Tanzania’s Gender Specialist, Deborah Sungusia, to observe a day-long training session in Tanga, about five hours north of Dar es Salaam. The seaport city of Tanga marks the starting point of the Tanga-Horohoro Road, one of the Tanzania Compact’s road investments (approximately 65 km/$49 million). This investment includes the rehabilitation of a key transportation route between the port of Tanga and the border town of Horohoro, which will create an improved linkage to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya - a major port of trade for East Africa.This road rehabilitation project is expected to increase trade and development between Tanzania and Kenya, create jobs, reduce transportation costs, increase access to vital community services for the people of this region, and will also help small subsistence farmers to more easily access local and regional markets.
In order to ensure that both women and men have equitable access to the economic benefits associated with this road project and others in the Compact, MCA-Tanzania developed a national Gender Integration Program (GIP). In collaboration with MCC and local stakeholders, MCA-T recognized that gender inequality was a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, identified priority areas for intervention to address this issue, and is currently utilizing an existing network of trained Gender Focal Points (GFPs) throughout the country to implement their program.
MCA-Tanzania is funding targeted trainings to help raise awareness amongst women and men throughout the implementation of each MCC Compact project in the transport, energy, and water sectors. The training program was also designed to increase understanding of the concept of gender and differential benefits experienced by men and women in economic development projects, and to cultivate the skills and economic potential of new or already existing entrepreneurial groups at each Compact project site.
The training I attended in December was a two-day follow-up training session designed to provide knowledge, skills and resources for effective management of entrepreneurial groups from the Tanga region. The group consisted of both direct and indirect beneficiaries of the Tanga-Horohoro road project. Each participant received comprehensive training on topics such as microfinance, access to loans and credit, bookkeeping, mobilization/management of group membership, and hygiene/sanitation education. Approximately ten skill-based groups from eight different villages, and 12 different wards (sub-village level) in the Tanga and nearby Mkinga region were represented at this training.
There were approximately 15 men and 25 women present at the training. Their skill sets ranged from cooking services to masonry, and from small-scale farming to security services provision. Through group discussion and mock problem-solving, feedback from peers and Gender Focal Points, and selected presentations to all participants, it was clear that all attendees were able to brainstorm with like-minded community members, practice their presentation skills, and gain a much deeper understanding about how to access increased economic opportunities that exist while the road is under construction, and new opportunities to expand their businesses, once the road is finished.
Before leaving Tanga, I was able to speak with a number of participants and it became quite clear to me that many of these dynamic men and women would most likely return to their cities, villages, and wards to share their new entrepreneurial knowledge, and become champions of their families’, communities’ and country’s development—teaching others to access new opportunities for growth along the Tanga-Horohoro road. I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this program on the ground over the next year.
Posted on March 8, 2011 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Here at MCC, we’re using the occasion to continue to put a spotlight on the need for a focus on gender equality in global development efforts.
We are proud of the positive feedback we have received on MCC’s gender policy work, and today we release a paper in which Virginia Seitz, our lead expert on gender and social assessment, outlines some of operational lessons we’ve learned integrating gender into our programs. It’s recommended reading for anyone interested in making sure women and men have equal access to the tools of economic growth. You can read it here.
This is also a big week for two young girls from rural Burkina Faso. MCC is hosting Aissatou Hamidou Diallo and Fatimata Yanta, students who participate in the MCC-funded BRIGHT school program in Burkina. The BRIGHT program has given these girls an opportunity for an education, and they’re making the most of it; they are both at the top of their class. Aissatou and Fatimata were invited to be honored guests at a White House reception hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. It is our hope that this experience allows them to build lasting understandings of the essential role of girls’ education in fighting poverty and contributing to economic growth and inspires them to keep up their good work in the classroom.
This Thursday, Aissatou and Fatimata along with Madame Madeline Sorgo – a Burkina educator and board member of the Burkina Millennium Challenge Account – will also join our CEO, Daniel Yohannes, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and U.S. Representative Nita Lowey at an event on Capitol Hill. It will feature remarks from Mr. Yohannes, Senator Cardin and Rep. Lowey and a panel discussion on the importance of gender equality to our development efforts. If you are in the Washington area, please feel free to attend. The event is at 12 p.m. this Thursday, March 10, in Room 325 of the Russell Senate Office Building. Follow this link to RSVP.
Check back on this blog and on MCC’s Facebook page for photos from this week’s events.
Posted on September 23, 2010 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
On Tuesday, September 21, MCC and the White House Council on Women and Girls co-hosted a high-level roundtable discussion on “Gender Integration in Practice” as a side event in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meetings on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Obama Administration is deeply committed to MDG 3—promote gender equality and empower women—as evidenced in the remarks from Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s issues. Both noted that the empowerment of women and girls is very much a part of the U.S. Government’s national security strategy and foreign policy objectives.
Other participants included the First Ladies of Lesotho and Malawi, Congressman Russ Carnahan, and prominent representatives from the private sector, NGO, and donor communities.
The roundtable discussion centered on “gender integration in practice”: How do we move beyond describing how gender differences and inequalities shape development opportunities to ensuring that we actually are achieving gender equality outcomes?
Representatives from the private sector called on the “convening power of government” to foster cooperation in achieving gender equality goals through partnerships with civil society, private firms, and government entities.
Participants noted the challenges of changing institutional cultures and of “living up to our own rhetoric.” Some noted that we must ensure that our attention to gender equality is not limited to “boutique projects” and, although there has been much progress in targeting issues that deeply affect women and girls, the challenge remains of mainstreaming gender analyses across development initiatives.
MCC’s corporate values of focusing on results and country ownership were acknowledged as core to achieving gender as well as other goals. MCC noted our engagement in ensuring that leadership, mandate, capacity, resources, and accountability are incorporated in our operational attention to gender.
MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes opened the roundtable discussion, which I had the pleasure of moderating subsequently. MCC was also represented by our gender and social assessment practice lead Virginia Seitz. This engagement further demonstrates MCC’s high-level commitment to well integrating our much-noted gender policy into MCC operations and working collaboratively across the U.S. Government to keep the empowerment of women and girls at the forefront of the international dialogue on development assistance.
Posted on March 8, 2010 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor, and Virginia Seitz, Director of Gender and Social Assessment
On February 26, 2010, we went to several villages in the northern region of Lesotho to witness the progress of the country’s $362.5 million MCC compact, in particular how the Gender Equality Project is building understanding and support for changes resulting from the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006. MCC supported the Government of Lesotho in this area of legal reform, and the Act repealed the marital power that had made women second-class citizens. Prior to 2006, married women in Lesotho held the status of children, limiting their political, economic, and social rights; women needed their husbands or other male relatives permission to access loans, own property, and even have medical surgery.
Throughout our day in the northern region, we heard the same message—progress is being made. Married women are taking out loans and purchasing property in their name. Legal reform is only the first step; now, the challenge is to ensure that both men and women understand what the Act means and how gender equality contributes to development for all members of the family. This is a difficult task, as with all changes; some men feel threatened and some women are afraid to go against their traditional gender roles.
The Gender Equality project team at MCA-Lesotho, the local entity managing the implementation of Lesotho’s MCC compact, is carefully building awareness, knowledge and acceptance of gender equality in the economic rights of both men and women. They are conducting training on the new laws for government and other institutions such as the civil and customary law judiciary and the banking industry. They also have a country-wide outreach program to reach deeply into rural society and institutions, including chiefs and community councils, to advocate and teach the benefits of gender equality for the development of the Basotho people. The chairperson of the community council of the Pitseng village noted that he has seen more women in recent years take leadership roles, including chiefs. We had the opportunity to meet one of these female Principal Chiefs, who is engaged in educating the local chiefs so they can disseminate information about this Act and how it can be applied. One councilman of the Pitseng community council noted, I have seen married couples planning together, communicating, and taking each others perspectives seriously. That is progress.
In a country where traditions, religion, and culture have defined gender roles, the passing of this legislation is paving the path to dialogue and great changes. Change takes time, and it is encouraging to know that MCC is contributing to gender equality in Lesotho.
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