Gender and Social Inclusion

Promoting gender and social inclusion is essential to MCC’s mission of achieving poverty reduction through economic growth. While growth is needed for reducing poverty over the long term, producing high levels of aggregate growth does not automatically translate into significant poverty reduction.

Research shows that the benefits from economic growth are not shared equally within societies. Growth – even robust growth – can leave some populations and communities behind. Certain disadvantaged groups—often women, the poor, or those from disadvantaged ethnic groups or regions—lack access to the economic opportunities available to others and are prevented from reaching their full productive potential.

Poverty is not a purely economic issue. Overlapping systems of disadvantage – in education, physical or financial assets, natural resources, public services, health, social rights, and political voice – can create poverty traps that are difficult to address.

  • Women’s economic opportunities are constrained by a potent combination of limited access to labor and credit markets, a disproportionate domestic care burden, fewer opportunities to build relevant skills and restricted economic and social rights.
  • Low quality education can hold entire communities back from economic advancement. More unequal societies may have more unequal education systems, effectively excluding the poor – especially women – from getting the skills needed to access more lucrative paying jobs.
  • Low status groups face discrimination and social exclusion that can reduce their total pool of human capital and assets, creating chronic, persistent poverty across generations.

The costs of exclusion are immense. Take the issue of gender inequalities. Globally, countries lose $160 trillion in wealth due to earnings gaps between women and men according to the World Bank’s Cost of Gender Inequality report. The Brookings Institution estimates that full and equal participation of women in the labor market could increase Niger’s GDP by 50%, and Morocco’s by nearly one third.

And studies have found that more unequal societies have less sustained and robust economic growth, in part because they are losing out on their full potential to invest and innovate by leaving so many people behind.

MCC works with partner countries to reduce poverty as effectively as possible, and to design investments that reach the poor, women, and other disadvantaged groups.

MCC is particularly dedicated to unlocking the economic potential of women in a holistic, sustainable, and impactful way. MCC projects support women entrepreneurs, expand income-generating activities and employment opportunities for women, lift legal restrictions such as property rights, and increase women’s access to critical services like reliable electricity and clean water.

MCC’s Commitment to Gender Integration and Social Inclusion

Through its Gender Policy, first adopted in 2006, MCC requires that gender issues are integrated throughout the threshold and compact cycle, from the initial country selection and early analysis to the development and design of programs, project implementation, the monitoring of program results, and evaluation of program impacts.

Country Selection and Assessment

Three of the 20 indicators on the MCC scorecard used to assess countries’ commitment to just and democratic governance, investment in its people, and economic freedom relate to gender. The Gender in the Economy indicator measures a government’s commitment to promoting gender equality by providing women and men with the same legal ability to participate in the economy, access to capital and markets, and rights to own property. MCC’s scorecard also includes indicators that measure a government’s commitment to girls primary and secondary education.

After a country is selected, MCC identifies the key binding constraints to economic growth, which includes an analysis of social and gender inequalities that may characterize the economy or shape policies and institutions and influence how economic growth impacts poverty and different groups within a society. MCC partnered with the Brookings Institution to refine and strengthen the agency’s application of the constraints to growth diagnostic tool to include a deeper and more systematic analysis of gender inequalities.

Program Design and Implementation

In designing programs, MCC seeks to fund activities that will generate significant and measurable increases in incomes of large numbers of people in partner countries, including significant gains for the poor.  As part of that process, MCC designs investments with an eye to ensuring benefits for women, the poor, and other disadvantaged groups.

In addition to requiring that each MCC investment meets the requirements of the Gender Policy, MCC recently approved an additional criterion that focuses exclusively on women’s economic empowerment which reflects the high priority that MCC leadership places on strengthening MCC’s efforts to expand women’s economic opportunities.

Each MCC investment requires a Social and Gender Integration Plan (SGIP), which provides a comprehensive roadmap for social inclusion and gender integration throughout compact and threshold programs. Payment of the second disbursement of compact funds is contingent on a partner country completing and MCC approving this plan.

Matt Sloan/Mathematica

According to an impact evaluation by Mathematica Policy Research, girls attending MCC-funded IMAGINE schools in Niger had higher enrollment rates, lower absenteeism rates, and higher math and French test scores than those in schools in comparison villages.

Data Monitoring and Evaluation

Good data yields good policy. Through its monitoring and evaluation efforts, MCC gathers and analyzes data on its beneficiaries, including by gender as well as by key socio-economic traits. MCC is working to understand how our women’s economic empowerment programming can increase income and assets at a household level, and thereby contribute to MCC’s overarching goal of reducing poverty through economic growth.

Examples of MCC’s Work in Gender and Social Inclusion

Education

The ability of individuals to be productive members of society starts with the opportunities available to them during childhood and adolescence. Through school construction and rehabilitation targeted to communities that need it most, MCC increases access to schools and supports policy reform and teacher training that creates an effective learning environment. Many of MCC’s education programs include a component to address girl’s educational access because we believe that investing in girls’ education is critical to the ability of women and girls to contribute to the productivity of the economy.

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MCC provided training to over 1,500 teachers and principals, 10,000 students, 5,500 student families, and over 100 staff from the Ministry of Education to improve gender equality within classrooms and schools.

MCC’s compact with El Salvador focuses on the systemic barriers that limit girls’ educational success. MCC is supporting efforts to address gender inequality and bias in the classroom, curriculum reform, and training teachers and students’ families to be aware of how not to perpetuate gender stereotypes. In close partnership with the Government of El Salvador, MCC also focuses on adolescent girls’ empowerment and young men’s redefinition of masculinity to reduce the gender-based violence that is pervasive in the country.

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Nina, a senior at San Diego State University-Georgia studying computer engineering, was also a counselor at the 2018 Women in Science Camp where she helped guide  activities and shared her experience in the STEM field with young campers.

In Georgia, MCC focuses on providing women and girls with the skills they need to succeed economically through increasing women’s participation in STEM degree programs. To attract and retain girls and minorities in the new U.S. accredited STEM bachelor’s degree program offered by San Diego State University and three Georgian public partner universities, MCC supports targeted outreach and recruitment efforts as well as scholarships.

Energy

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 860 million people—70 percent of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa—still lack access to a reliable and affordable source of electricity. The sustainable provision of electricity—a resource crucial to human development—can promote better health and education within communities and free up large amount of time and labor. There is also a close correlation between income levels and access to modern sources of energy. Women are more likely than men to live in poverty and many of these women live in rural areas without electricity.

In Benin, MCC’s compact is focused on increasing electricity supply, including to women and the urban and rural poor within the country. Benin’s utility needs to be financially viable and able to provide accessible and affordable electricity, including to low-income populations. To reach unserved rural and peri-urban communities, MCC is co-financing off-grid, clean energy solutions. A Women’s Energy Entrepreneurship activity will equip women with the skills to leverage electricity and the sale of energy products to increase their incomes.

Three scholarship recipients pose together on the roof of the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi’s Blantyre office in Malawi.

Rhoda was selected as an intern at the electricity utility through MCC’s program.

MCC’s power sector reform project in Malawi included a grant facility to promote social and gender-responsive approaches to natural resource management, which impacts the country’s power generation capability through its hydropower plants. Also through the Malawi Compact, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), the country’s electric utility, created a Gender and Social Inclusion unit and is now leading the way in mainstreaming women’s participation in the energy sector—training employees and developing opportunities for the next generation of female engineers.

In Ghana, MCC encouraged the electricity utility to adopt a new policy on gender, which seeks to strengthen the recruitment, retention and promotion of women within the utility. This is part of a larger effort by MCC, including the establishment of an internship and mentorship program, to encourage more women to go into and succeed in higher paying jobs in the energy sector which is considered a non -traditional occupation for women.

“The engineering industry is dominated by males, [… but] with the new [gender] policy in place, there is a greater chance of me, as a young female engineer, to gain employment in this male dominated field.” said Rhoda Oppong, who majored in electrical engineering, and took part in the internship program.

Land Rights

Credit: Jake Lyell for MCC

Strengthening women’s land tenure security improves their access to and control over economic resources which has a positive effect on a poverty reduction and economic growth.

In Morocco, MCC actively encouraged the passage of laws that govern the structure and administration of communal land and strengthen inheritance rights for women. MCC is supporting the individual titling of 67,000 hectares of collective land. With compact support, the Ministries of Interior and Agriculture have adopted a procedure that includes participatory community dialogue and targeted work with women and men to increase women’s participation in decision-making and to create opportunities for more women to be recognized as owners or co-owners of land. The project will also create awareness of women’s legal rights with community leaders. To ensure and amplify the benefits of land titles to the farmers and their families, the program will partner with Moroccan institutions working at the local level to deliver legal and financial literacy training, facilitate access to credit, train farmers on improved agricultural practices and promote economic empowerment opportunities for women and youth.

Health, Water and Sanitation

Celestina, an MCC beneficiary in Cabo Verde, stands next to her home where she now has indoor plumbing thanks to MCC's compact.

Credit: MCA-Cabo Verde II

Thanks to an MCC-funded project in Cabo Verde that provided low-cost household connections to water and sanitation networks, Celestina has clean water coming directly to her home. She now spends less time collecting water and has a private, indoor toilet.

In Zambia, MCC’s water and sanitation investments stimulated innovations in pro-poor service delivery through grants to community based organizations, NGOs, and the private sector. The Cabo Verde Compact’s dedicated Social Access Fund was created to improve access to water and sanitation for poor and women-led households. And in both countries, we worked to strengthen the ability of government and utilities to respond to the water and sanitation needs of women and the poor more effectively, through policies, institutional capacity development,  and public information activities—which in turn strengthen the sustainability of service provisions.