Washington, D.C. MCC applauds yesterdays House passage of H.Res.294, a resolution commending the Kingdom of Lesotho for the enactment of a law to improve the status of married women and ensure the access of married women to property rights. The bi-partisan resolution was sponsored by Representative Diane Watson (D-CA), Vice Chair of the House Africa Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and co-sponsored by 47 other House Members. Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) also supported the resolution on the floor. In March 2007, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) led a bipartisan group of Senators to pass a similar resolution in the Senate.
In her floor statement, Congresswoman Watson noted the role of the MCC in bringing to light the need for gender equality in Lesotho.
It was through the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation that we were able to encourage the best instincts of Lesothos political leadership to make these changes to the law. It is instructive to pay attention to how the MCCs leadership convinced Lesotho to make these changes. They did not demand the change as a quid pro quo for MCC assistance. Instead, they appealed to the Lesotho Governments sense of reason, by convincing them that any assistance provided by the United States for economic development would be only half as effective if half of Lesothos population was excluded from the formal economy, said Congresswoman Watson.
Previously in Lesotho, married women were considered legal minors. Throughout the development of Lesothos Millennium Challenge Compact, MCC has worked with the people and government of Lesotho to ensure that gender equality in the area of economic rights was legally guaranteed before approving a Compact. In late 2006, the Parliament of Lesotho enacted a law ending the minority status of married women, a key milestone in Lesothos Compact development process. Last month, MCCs Board of Directors approved a five-year, $363 million Compact with Lesotho and MCC expects to sign this Compact by the end of July.
A major component of the Lesotho program will directly benefit women by strengthening the delivery of essential health services, largely maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS treatment, through investments in human resources and public and private health infrastructure improvements. In Lesotho, more women than men are infected with HIV/AIDS and at a younger age. The Compact will also benefit women by improving access to clean water and sanitation, improving access to credit and other financial services, and promoting community based resource management.
Gender equality is a vital factor for sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth. said MCC CEO Ambassador Danilovich. I commend House passage of this resolution and thank Representatives Watson and Ros-Lehtinen for their leadership in fighting for improvements in womens rights and gender equality.
Lesothos enactment of a law that guarantees women economic rights is an example of the MCC Effect, one of the important successes of MCCs approach.. The MCC Effect is the positive impact of MCC on developing countries beyond direct investments. Eligibility for MCC funding is a powerful incentive that can lead to international recognition and increased private sector investment, prompting countries to enact real economic, social, and political reforms. Countries are taking it upon themselves to re-evaluate their policies, regulations, and legislation related to good governance, health and education, and the investment climate in order to qualify for MCC programs.
Additionally, to ensure that programs benefit both men and women, gender analysis is integral to all aspects of MCCs work. Consistent with MCCs gender policy, the agency trains its staff responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of Compacts on the role of gender in sustainable development.
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a United States government corporation designed to work with some of the poorest countries in the world, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people that promote economic growth and elimination of extreme poverty.