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Women’s History Month 2021: Why MCC Has Always Prioritized Women’s Economic Empowerment

March 15, 2021

By Saadia Iqbal , Writer-Editor, Department of Congressional and Public Affairs

Women’s economic empowerment has been a major focus for MCC since its inception.

“They didn’t deliberately set out to exclude women. They just didn’t think about them.” (from Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez)

Fatema Z. Sumar, MCC’s vice president for compact operations, read the above quote at a recent webinar to underscore the pervasive issue of gender blind data in the world. The webinar is part of a Learning Agenda for the agency which is helping look for ways to use evidence to strengthen the design and impact of MCC’s investments in women’s economic empowerment (WEE).

At MCC, we have been thinking about how to include women since the agency’s founding. And initiatives such as the WEE Learning Agenda will help us better understand how MCC's investments in women contribute to MCC's overarching goal of reducing poverty through economic growth. What is clear is that you cannot grow an economy if half its population is left out. Gender inclusion informs where MCC invests and how we implement those investments. As a result, we are building programs that enable women to access training opportunities, employment, equality, and entrepreneurship.

MCC’s country scorecard, which determines eligibility for MCC funding, includes a Gender in the Economy indicator, based on the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law Report. And MCC took another major step towards women’s economic empowerment by adding it to our investment criteria—a measure that will help us further integrate women’s economic participation from the development phase of our investments through implementation.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, below are a few of the great stories from women who are benefitting from MCC programs around the world. Each one shows individuals who are finding ways to empower themselves and their communities.

MCC’s Kosovo Threshold program includes a scholarship for women to study at Des Moines Iowa Community College (DMACC). In the photo, DMACC students Qendrese Nasufi, Buna Perteshani, and Doruntina Shatri advance their knowledge of renewable energy during a class trip to a windmill.
Madame Ismène founded Ismast Energy LLC, one of a few women-owned renewable energy product supply companies in Benin. “Through my participation in [the MCA-Benin II Women’s Energy Entrepreneurship initiative] WEE, I was able to broaden the range of what my company can offer, particularly energy efficiency services. I can now participate in calls for tender, have a better relationship with financial institutions, and have a highly-motivated team that understands the company’s vision and works every day to achieve it.”
Grace Ghambi received a scholarship as part of MCC's work with Malawi’s national electric utility to create more opportunities for the next generation of female engineers. The founder of the youth organization Focus Action Results, through which she has reached more than 70,000 people, Grace believes the opportunities and scholarships she received through MCC-funded projects boosted her confidence and helped her to “start thinking outside the box.”
Ada Margarita Murcia enrolled in a masonry training course supported by MCC's El Salvador Compact. After completing masonry training, Murcia accepted a construction job with a firm that is working to build the Santa Ana–Sonsonate bypass, part of the compact’s Investment Climate Project. “Because I look small and thin, people didn’t believe I could do it. So, I said ‘I am going to try, and I believe I can.’”
MCC’s compact in Morocco includes an education activity that aims to improve the quality of secondary education, piloting a plan to improve 90 schools across three regions of the country. Fatimazahra, 14, attends one of the participating schools.

“Sharing my ideas on how to improve the lives of students, especially the most marginalized—such as girls living in rural communities—really increased my confidence, and it gave me great joy to serve as a voice for the students. This confidence and experience have encouraged me to focus on my education and continue my studies. Unfortunately, many girls in my region leave school early for a variety of reasons, but I am more determined than ever to finish my studies and get my diploma. I also look forward to helping my school implement its School Improvement Plan, part of which is to help rural girls stay in school and finish their studies.”

Another great story from Morocco concerns Samira Sabri, whose community of Marrakesh-Safi is in a region where we are piloting more efficient and inclusive land privatization procedures. Thanks to a new land law allowing multiple heirs, Samira’s rights to the land that she inherited from her father will be formalized, and she is now slated to be a title holder to a land parcel. Recently, she found her name and plot number, along with those of her brothers, on a parcel map being validated as part of MCC’s Morocco Compact. Samira is one example of many other women heirs in her community and other communities who will become titleholders as a result of MCC’s work.

MCC is proud of our work to improve women’s long-term prosperity in developing countries around the world. We look forward to further strengthening our data-driven approach to support our partner countries’ efforts to remove the financial, legal, institutional, and societal barriers that keep women from fully participating in their economies.