Washington, DC — The U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Chief Executive Officer Daniel W. Yohannes, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Jeanne Shaheen, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey today opened a discussion on the importance of gender equality in international development.
At the event, Mr. Yohannes stated, “Gender equality is an issue of human rights, and it is also an issue of effective economic development. After all, MCC’s mission is focused on helping our partner countries grow, attracting private investment, and reducing dependence on aid. The only way to harness a country’s economic potential is to make sure both women and men have equal access to the tools for income growth.”
Senator Cardin stated, “On this 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, it is heartening to witness some of the real lives that have been changed for the better as a result of the efforts of the United States. I am extremely proud that MCC holds true to the American commitment to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality. MCC knows for it to meet its mandate on sustainable development, it must empower women. Empowering women opens the door to good governance. Nations will never have true economic or political stability without empowering women and respecting women’s rights.”
Congresswoman Lowey reiterated, “Empowering women through access to health care, education, and economic opportunity is among the smartest investments we can make to promote stable societies and decrease long-term reliance on foreign assistance. I am proud to stand with the Millennium Challenge Corporation in supporting women’s rights and opportunities worldwide.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who recently introduced a resolution in the Senate to recognize International Women’s Day, continued, “Our investment in women pays global dividends. Empowering women is critical to building a world with lasting economic growth and political and social stability. While strides for gender equality have been made in recent decades, women around the world continue to face significant obstacles in all aspects of their lives including denial of basic human rights, discrimination, and gender-based violence. MCC’s efforts to incorporate gender equality into its programs and to use development goals as a tool to empower women around the world are ground-breaking, and deserve our support.”
Panelists at the event included Co-Founder and President of Woman Thrive Worldwide Ritu Sharma; MCC Senior Advisor Cassandra Butts; Millennium Challenge Account-Burkina Faso Board Member Madeleine Ouangraoua Sorgo; and MCC Senior Director for Social and Gender Assessment Dr. Virginia Seitz.
Ms. Sharma stated at the panel discussion, “It is now accepted wisdom that investing in women is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. But gender is not just about women: it is about looking at the needs of both women and men in order to get development right. The challenge is to actually integrate gender across all U.S. assistance programs so both women and men can benefit from them and be equal drivers of positive change in their countries.”
Also in attendance were Aissatou Hamidou Diallo and Fatimata Yanta, two young participants in MCC’s BRIGHT II schools project in Burkina Faso. On Tuesday, Aissatou spoke and introduced First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. They were accompanied by Ms. Sorgo, who is a leader and advocate for gender equality in Burkina Faso.
MCC is committed to working with poor countries to help place them on the road to self-sufficiency, while prioritizing the fight against corruption and holding countries accountable for results. MCC recognizes that gender inequality is a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, and is committed to ensuring that gender is considered in all stages of its work with partner countries: from the selection of eligible countries, to the development, design, and implementation of compact projects, to the monitoring of results and evaluation of impacts.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. Government agency designed to work with developing countries, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic, and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth.