Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Gender
Posted on March 6, 2014 by Cassandra Q. Butts, senior advisor
Gender is one of MCC’s top priorities and for good reason. Creating better opportunities for women and girls is not only the right thing to do—a core value we share with our partner countries across the globe—but also because inequality can stifle a country’s fight to lift its people out of poverty.
My role at MCC is in part to prioritize MCC's gender work to ensure that women and men are equal beneficiaries at the forefront of our approach to development.
On March 8—International Women’s Day—MCC is partnering with Devex and other development leaders on a month-long campaign called She Builds that highlights the role women play in building communities, economies, innovations, and the future.
Together, we will unveil a series of stories and videos of women who have seen their lives change through gender inclusion projects, as well as profiles and interviews of female Millennium Challenge Account CEOs who are leading the charge in implementing MCC-funded programs. From Burkina Faso and Cabo Verde to the Philippines and beyond, these stories will describe how our partnerships are making a positive impact across the world.
We’re also excited about our participation in the White House Council on Women and Girls’ celebration of Women’s History Month, which will highlight some of our achievements in ensuring women and girls benefit from our projects.
But that’s not all. Today, MCC is presenting the latest issue of Milestones, which focuses on our approach to gender. And later this month, I will be sharing my experiences from a recent trip to Malawi.
MCC’s gender investments are paying off, and I am proud of the strides we have made toward greater gender equality. Together with our partner countries, we are helping ensure a better future for all by standing up for women and girls.
Keep checking mcc.gov throughout March to read more about MCC’s progress on advancing gender equality.
Posted on March 4, 2014 by John Underwood, MCC chief economist
MCC watchers pay a lot of attention to how our Board of Directors selects countries. Performance-based selection is one of our signature features—but it’s just the first step in an exacting process that MCC and partner countries undertake before taxpayer money is ever spent in the country. The process isn’t easy, and money doesn’t always flow at the end of it. But as MCC’s chief economist, I see it as a real strength of the institution.
This is what happens after MCC’s Board selects a country as eligible for assistance—based on a commitment to good governance and investing in sound economic and social policies—but before we fund projects:
1. Undertake a joint search for the most likely binding constraints to private investment and economic growth. I lead our team of MCC economists who, together with our partner country colleagues, undertake a constraints analysis. The results, informed by and tested through broad in-country consultations, enable us to jointly select activities that are most likely to promote sustainable poverty-reducing economic growth. The binding constraint in many MCC countries is in infrastructure, particularly transportation and energy. Governance issues are also common. Education comes up in several cases, notably in countries in the lower middle income category, representing situations in which countries will at best only slowly move further up the income scale and create what people want—jobs—without addressing education quantity and quality. The table below shows MCC’s country-by-country constraints analysis findings to date:
Along with the constraints analysis, countries conduct a social and gender analysis and look for private sector investment opportunities. Both contribute to the constraints analysis findings. In addition, the social and gender analysis looks for barriers that may inhibit groups from benefiting from the proposed investments. The investment opportunities analysis explores possibilities to directly or indirectly leverage private sector investment. Both provide valuable data for the next step.
Identify a program to address one or more binding constraints. The partner country, with MCC collaboration and further in-country consultation, undertakes further work to get at root causes behind the binding constraints to growth. The aim is a coherent program logic that explains how policy and institutional reform and investments will help address the constraint. MCC uses cost-benefit analysis to measure the likely impact of proposed projects. It’s a straightforward comparison of costs and benefits; the costs are the MCC-funded grants and related costs funded by the country or other donors, and the benefits are increases in incomes of the country’s targeted households and firms. MCC analyzes proposals as investments, with payoffs going to households and firms. We only include benefits when there is evidence to support the logic and look at who benefits across the income spectrum.
The cost-benefit tool allows a back and forth between country project teams and MCC to improve the cost-effectiveness of projects, notably by looking for cost savings while retaining the benefits. MCC expects projects to pass a “hurdle rate” of at least a 10 percent expected economic rate of return (ERR). As part of project preparations, the country works with MCC to set out the framework for monitoring and evaluation to help keep projects on track during implementation and for careful independent evaluations after completion.
The rigorous combination of the constraints analysis, social and gender analysis, investment opportunity analysis, program logic development, project cost-benefit analysis leading to an ERR, and planning for monitoring and evaluation helps ensure that MCC will support countries doing the right things and doing them the right way.
Selection may be the most well-known way we use evidence in our decisions, but the demanding, data-driven project development process is just as much a part of MCC’s DNA. I hope it will get the attention it deserves and ultimately benefit from receiving your input on how it is working.
Thanks to Sandra Ospina and Natalie Kottke for contributing to this post.
Posted on February 20, 2014 by Andria Hayes-Birchler, Senior Development Policy Officer
Hillary Rodham Clinton just launched a global review of data on the advancement of women and girls. The former Secretary of State (and former chair of MCC’s Board of Directors) is using her platform at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which aims to gather and analyze data on the progress of women globally. I am thrilled that she is focusing on two issues of importance to MCC—gender parity and data—and hope it paves the way for more and better data across development decision-making.
The project aims to track global progress of women and girls since the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. In the nearly two decades since the conference, have women advanced in education? Are they serving as elected officials more frequently? What about women’s economic participation: Are there fewer women living in poverty? Have women’s wages increased in an absolute matter? How about relative to men? To answer any of these questions, one needs high-quality data and the capacity to analyze it well, and this is exactly the challenge No Ceilings hopes to tackle.
At MCC, we rely on a huge amount of third-party data for making decisions about which countries we work with, which investments are most likely to lead to economic growth and poverty reduction (and for whom) and for measuring and understanding our results. My colleagues and I are deeply interested in ensuring high-quality data exists and that development stakeholders use that data responsibly. We know how powerful data can be in driving decisions. And we know how frustrating it can be when there isn’t good data or the data is weak.
This new initiative could advance the data in development conversation; particularly since it:
- Brings accountability to global promises. In 1995, the world came together and promised to advance women’s empowerment. Without data on women’s literacy rates or incidences of violence against women, for example, it is impossible to know if there has been progress on these promises. Data help provides answers.
- Has an eye on post-2015 goals. As the Millennium Development Goals race towards their 2015 target date, the global community will need to come together towards new post-2015 goals. By highlighting where progress has (and hasn’t) been made towards women’s empowerment over the past two decade, No Ceilings has the potential to inform where the global community can best focus the next wave of commitments.
- Is likely to serve as a “gap analysis.” Although the project primarily aims to analyze existing data, it is likely to highlight all the areas where data is low-quality (or simply non-existent). By identifying the unmet needs for data, No Ceilings has the potential to inspire fresh efforts at capturing new data, much like MCC’s selection scorecard has helped development stakeholders examine the quality of global policy data over the past decade.
- Uses traditional and non-traditional data sources. With Google in the mix, it is likely No Ceilings will have access to data that hasn’t traditionally been explored by development stakeholders. I look forward to seeing if new data, indicators or ideas comes out of the data review and analysis.
More than anything, we know that for women and girls to count in economic development projects, they must be counted. Their progress in education, politics and economics must be counted. And as MCC seeks to reward governments that promote women’s economic participation—and ensure women benefit from MCC compacts—this data is a vital tool for tracking progress. I’m eager to see No Ceilings help us do just that.
Posted on January 31, 2014 by Leonard Rolfes Jr., senior property rights advisor, MCC, and Alfousseyni Niono, land issues and financial services coordinator, MCA-Mali
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
How can newly irrigated land be allocated to farmers in a way that is fair and transparent and leads to efficient agricultural production while also providing an opportunity for the poor and vulnerable to climb out of poverty? This was one of the big questions that the Alatona Irrigation Project in central Mali set out to answer.
The project—part of MCC’s five-year, $435 million compact with Mali—converted more than 12,000 acres of dry scrub land into rich, productive irrigated land suitable for growing rice and vegetables. Once the irrigation infrastructure was built, the land needed to be allocated to people who would farm it.
MCA-Mali, the local organization implementing the compact, first allocated 12-acreunits if the land to the families who were displaced by the project and who could no longer use the land for grazing and other livelihood activities. For the remaining units, it was necessary that the people who received land had the knowledge and resources to make productive use of it—while trying to correct the deep-rooted inequalities in the region by encouraging the participation of women, the landless and other disadvantaged groups. Every proposed solution risked antagonizing some part of the population who believed they deserved more of the land than they were being allocated.
In the end, a two-step process was used to allocate the remaining land. First, each applicant was evaluated based on their current access to land (the landless received extra points), farming and irrigation experience (more experience equaled more points), proof of having paid water fees in the past (the land had to be purchased and water fees paid), membership in an association or cooperative, access to farming tools and adequate resources, and gender and age (women and youth received extra points). Each applicant was given a point score, and those who passed a minimum point threshold entered the second stage: a lottery.
The lottery was conducted publicly and transparently to ensure that the outcome was fair and accepted by all parties. To maximize women’s access to land, joint-titling was encouraged, allowing land owners to name their spouse as a co-owner of the land, which will prevent women from losing land access in the event of a husband’s death.
The effort required substantial community outreach to make sure residents fully understood the process and criteria for applying for irrigated land. The hope is that this successful model for land allocation and joint titling will be replicated throughout Mali and other countries in West Africa whenever land needs to be allocated.
Tell us what you think! Have you had experiences with land allocation or determining who gets access to land in other development projects? How were criteria determined, and how accepting was the community?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on October 11, 2013 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
In Burkina Faso, girls will celebrate the second annual International Day of the Girl Child by attending school thanks to a groundbreaking investment by the Millennium Challenge Corporation in the BRIGHT (Burkinabe Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed) program. The United Nations determined that this year’s day will focus on “Innovating for Girls Education,” and innovation is at the heart of the BRIGHT program.
To improve educational outcomes for all children in rural villages with low school enrollments, particularly girls, the BRIGHT program was implemented in 132 rural villages throughout Burkina Faso. Each village received primary school construction and an innovative suite of complementary interventions for students, parents and teachers to encourage school attendance and enhance educational environments.
For students, the interventions included school meals, take-home rations for girls, school kits, and textbooks. Parental and community interventions included adult literacy training for mothers, community information campaigns on the benefits of education, especially the education of girls, and community capacity building on the importance of sustaining educational assets. Teachers also benefited through better school facilities including teacher housing, the recruitment of additional female teachers and gender sensitivity training.
The evidence shows that the BRIGHT program’s innovation is producing results. A recent analysis of the program published by economists Harounan Kazianga, Dan Levy, Leigh L. Linden, and Matt Sloan in the July 2013 issue of American Economic Journal: Applied Economics found that the BRIGHT program increased enrollment by 19 percentage points and increased test scores by 0.41 after 2.5 years. The findings also identified BRIGHT success in targeting girls for enrollment, with an increase of 5 percentage points more than boys. And when comparing the BRIGHT “girl friendly” interventions to a regular school, the findings identified an increase in enrollment of 13 percentage points above a regular school’s effect.
Achieving results is at the core of MCC’s model, and the results of this independent analysis are consistent with what we see on the ground. The BRIGHT program is changing the lives of communities, families and girl children throughout Burkina Faso.
Aisattou Hamidou Diallo and Fatimata Yanta (pictured) are two such girl children who participated in the BRIGHT program and came to Washington, DC in 2011 to share their stories of challenge and achievement. The many memories of their visit include meeting First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Aisattou and Fatimata have gone on to secondary school, where they continue to achieve and build on their BRIGHT experience.
Results like these should be celebrated every day and particularly on the International Day of the Girl Child.
Posted on July 25, 2013 by Tsolmon Begzsuren, MCA Gender Specialists, and Jozefina Cutura, MCC Gender Specialists
As Mongolia enters the final year of its $285 million MCC compact, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia is eager to emphasize and reinforce its commitment to gender equality.
In March, MCA-Mongolia launched the Women’s Leadership in the Economy campaign to inspire and motivate women to achieve and fulfill their leadership potential. Mongolian women are underrepresented in business and government leadership roles despite their strong participation in the labor force. They are also less likely to choose careers such as construction or mining, where job growth prospects are better and pay is higher in Mongolia.
Through this campaign, our goal was to encourage women to pursue leadership roles and to inspire young girls to enter non-traditional careers.
The campaign showcases exemplary work demonstrated by six role models — one from each compact project. There are women who have succeeded in trades in which the workforce has been traditionally male, including road construction, engineering and leading a herder group. One role model, for example, organized a group of neighborhood women into a cooperative and helped them obtain land titles through the project. They’ve used their new titles as collateral to obtain housing loans, build houses and traditional dwellings known as gers and grow vegetables for food production and income generation.
MCA-Mongolia held a public event in Ulaanbaatar on June 20 with stakeholders and civil society representatives to honor these role models. The women spoke about the challenges they’ve faced, while encouraging girls and young women to enter more self-reliant career paths. The event also held an essay and photo competition around the theme “gender equality through my eyes,” which helped draw attention to the gender-related issues in Mongolia.
Both MCC and MCA-Mongolia believe gender inequality can be a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, and together we are committed to ensuring that compact projects consider gender issues throughout design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. As the compact enters its final months, we look forward to supporting this objective in the final months of the compact.
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.
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