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.