Speech

September 10, 2008

As Prepared by John J. Danilovich, Chief Executive Officer

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‘MCC CEO Ambassador John Danilovich Accepts Award from Women Thrive Worldwide’

Introduction

Good evening, and thank you so much for this tremendous recognition.  I am deeply honored, deeply humbled, to be included in this auspicious tenth anniversary celebration of Women Thrive Worldwide! It is a remarkable opportunity to be able to share the stage with such

  • strong,
  • effective,
  • inspiring

champions for the empowerment of women around the world.

  • I want to express my heartfelt congratulations to Congresswoman Lowey on her well-deserved award. It’s always a pleasure to see you—we were together recently at the Democratic convention in Denver—and your strong support and advocacy for investing in women and girls around the world is a priority you know we also share at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Some say, that Washington is a town of ulterior motives…but my remaining time in Washington is short, and I want to assure you that I have no ulterior motive in telling all of you here of the respect, admiration, and affection I have for Congresswoman Lowey.  I vote in the District of Columbia.  But, if I could choose a representative, there is only one that I would chose, and that is Congresswoman Nita Lowey!
  • Congratulations to you, Director General Chamorro and Ms. Martinez, for your leadership in Nicaragua. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is very proud of our partnership with the Cuento Reto del Milenio team and Consejo de Mujeres de Occidente in administering a model program that is having a powerful, meaningful impact in Nicaragua.

Accepting the award

Empowering women is one of the most essential ingredients for ending global poverty.  At the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as a unique government agency that delivers development assistance in an innovative and demanding way, we recognize this fundamental need and reality. 

I accept this Partnership for Women to Thrive Award this evening on behalf of the extraordinary professionals who make MCC’s work possible, who labor tirelessly to achieve MCC’s mission of reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth.  They are people like you whose commitment to empowering women is part of their everyday focus.

I accept it on behalf of our MCC partner countries around the world, countries like Nicaragua and all our MCC partners, who are taking on the often difficult work of

  • reforming their policies,
  • building their capacity,
  • stamping out corruption,
  • investing in the health and education of their citizens,
  • and leading their own development.

To date, we have committed over $6.7 billion in funds worldwide. And, Nicaragua’s $175 million compact is already showing results,

  • where thousands of farmers and rural entrepreneurs are benefiting from technical assistance and business development services,
  • where land titles have already been presented to over one thousand Nicaraguan families,
  • where transportation projects have been launched to rehabilitate a key segment of the Pan-American Highway,
  • and where Nicaraguan farmers can point to rising incomes because of MCC support.

And, most important, I accept this award on behalf of women benefitting from MCC-funded projects.  They are the real honorees tonight.

  • From the women in Nicaragua who formed a council to represent the interests of women farmers in shaping the rural development and land titling aspects of the country’s MCC compact, including the great and exemplary work of Juan Sebastian Chamorro and Sylvia Torres of MCA-Nicaragua to integrate gender into the program;
  • to the women in Lesotho who can now
    • access credit,
    • participate in business,
    • and engage in economic activities as independent individuals without requiring a man’s signature, made possible when the government passed a law removing the minority status of women so as to access an  MCC grant;  
  • to girls in Burkina Faso receiving an education in 132 schools MCC funds made possible;

  • to girls and women in Mozambique who will be able to attend school or engage in income-generating activities, rather than spend their day fetching firewood and water, because of the water and sanitation systems funded through MCC;

  • and to the women of Madagascar accessing microloans to grow their small businesses through MCC-funded programs,

MCC is committed to integrating gender equality and gender roles in development into every aspect of our operations so that both women and men can fully reap the benefits of economic growth and opportunity.

  • I recall handing out land titles in Madagascar as a result of MCC’s compact.
  • One particular woman recipient exuded great pride, and great optimism for a better future.
  • She turned to me, clutching her land title, and resolutely proclaimed, “And, no man will take this away from me!”
  • That sense of empowerment has remained with me.
  • Now, this comment was made in the 21st century, but the struggle for gender equality and the empowerment of women goes back even to the Old Testament.  Ellona Fritschie, one of my MCC colleagues, recently had a little girl and named her Noa.  I thought: How could you name a little girl Noa when all I think of is Noah, building the Ark?  Ellona then informed me that Noa, in fact, was one of five sisters in the Old Testament who petitioned Moses, successfully, for land inheritance rights as women.  So her namesake is both a feminist and one of the world’s first land tenure advocates!

Gender Policy

Our commitment to gender equality is more than platitudes.  It is our MCC policy and practice.  I am extremely proud of MCC’s Gender Policy, developed through consultations within and outside our organization and based on international best practices. We are very fortunate to have Ginny Seitz at MCC as Director for Social and Gender Assessment.  As a gender specialist and advisor, Ginny brings valuable leadership to building internal capacity in the area of gender and development and to incorporating

  • gender analysis,
  • gender planning,
  • and gender impact into our work. 

In fact, our policy requires the integration of gender into all stages of MCC’s assistance programs.

We provide guidance to countries to ensure that they effectively design and implement programs in their compacts that take the

  • social roles,
  • behaviors,
  • and responsibilities

of both women and men into consideration and address gender inequalities that are constraints to economic growth and poverty reduction. 

Ritu Sharma Fox, whose extraordinary vision and leadership make Women Thrive Worldwide the success it is, says that MCC’s Gender Policy is “definitely the most comprehensive and practical and most likely-to-be-successful U.S. policy on gender…”

Ritu’s endorsement means a great deal to us.  To achieve our mission of reducing poverty and stimulating growth, MCC’s groundbreaking Gender Policy reminds us all of what we know for sure: A development strategy that ignores half of its citizens is, by definition, doomed to fail.  I wish to thank Ritu, along with the staff of Women Thrive and its member organizations, for the support they have given to MCC.  From the beginning, they have consistently supported our efforts to think through how MCC can most effectively integrate these issues throughout our organization and our work.  I’d also like to especially thank Nora O’Connell, Women Thrive Worldwide Vice President, for the valuable support she continues to lend to our work as co-chair of the InterAction-MCA Working Group.

Conclusion

We welcome and invite the ongoing

  • expert advice,
  • sound guidance,
  • and strong support

we receive from Women Thrive Worldwide in MCC’s quest to fully realize the implications of gender in achieving sustainable economic development that will benefit and lift families and communities out of poverty.  

As we celebrate tonight the progress that has been achieved, we are also reminded how much more remains to be done to empower women; it is a challenge that we must continue to meet with purpose and determination.  

This Partnership for Women to Thrive Award recognizes our commitment and recognizes the incredible strides we are making with partner countries, like Nicaragua, around the world.  I thank you for honoring the Millennium Challenge Corporation with this prestigious award.   

It is a strong validation of the important work regarding gender that has been—and will continue to be—integral to achieving MCC’s mission. While we acknowledge the progress that has been made, tonight’s celebration inspires us all at the Millennium Challenge Corporation to continue to persevere to achieve our vision for a world free from poverty, where every individual—men and women alike—can share in a life of

  • hope,
  • progress,
  • and prosperity. 

Thank you very much.