Washington, D.C. Ambassador John Danilovich, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), today announced a formal policy to integrate gender analysis into MCCs assistance programs.
This analysis—commonly understood as an examination of the social roles and responsibilities assigned to women and men in any society and their ability to access and control resources—will be integrated into every aspect of MCC operations, from staff training and country selection to Compact development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
MCC is already providing guidance to eligible and Compact countries to ensure that investment proposals and Compact projects address gender inequalities that are constraints to poverty reduction and economic growth.
Decades of experience and research demonstrate that gender inequality is a significant constraint to sustainable, long-term economic growth and poverty reduction. said Ambassador Danilovich, adding, An organization such as MCC must have a policy that does more than define what it believes; the policy also must outline practical ways to ensure gender equity in our programs.
Consistent with the policy, MCC now trains its staff responsible for negotiating and overseeing the development of Compacts. We are committed to ensuring that MCC staff understand the role of gender in sustainable development, said Danilovich.
Since its establishment in 2004, MCC has signed Compacts totaling $3 billion with 11 nations: Madagascar, Honduras, Cape Verde, Nicaragua, Georgia, Benin, Vanuatu, Armenia, Ghana, Mali, and El Salvador. MCC is also actively engaging with other eligible countries in Compact negotiations. MCC has also approved more than $286 million under the Threshold Program for 11 countries. Threshold programs focus mainly on improving governance measurements to help create a policy framework where poverty reduction and economic growth can take root in partner countries.
Danilovich said that gender concerns already play an important role in the selection of countries eligible for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) funding and in the actual design of projects undertaken by partner countries. Adoption of the gender policy will formalize the efforts presently underway, Danilovich explained.
During the country selection process, MCC reviews indicators that measure countries’ demonstrated commitment to policies that promote, among other things, political and economic freedom, investments in education and health care, control of corruption, and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law. These include social investments such as Girls Primary Education Completion Rates and measures of political and civil rights such as Civil Liberties and Voice and Accountability, which evaluate factors including gender equity.
Danilovich also cited instances where gender considerations are currently playing a vital role in the design of projects:
- MCC is working with the Government of Lesotho to ensure that gender equality in the area of economic rights is legally guaranteed before signing a Compact. In Lesotho, married women have been considered legal minors. However, the Parliament of Lesotho recently enacted a law ending the minority status of married women, a key milestone in Lesothos Compact development process. A major component of the proposed Lesotho program is aimed at strengthening the delivery of essential health services, largely maternal and child health and HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment, through human resources investments and public and private health infrastructure improvements. In Lesotho, more women than men are infected with HIV/AIDS and at a younger age.
- Seven MCC countries implementing Compacts have gender specialists on projects to ensure optimal project design and gender integration. Three countries in negotiation with MCC have hired gender specialists to help refine and prioritize poverty reduction proposals.
- In Armenia, the Irrigated Agriculture Project, a critical piece of the $235.65 million Compact, includes a rural credit program for farmers. About 34 percent of farmer households are headed by women. The initiative is expected to include participation objectives for women in obtaining and using credit effectively.
- In Mali, which has a $461 million Compact, women will have access to irrigated agricultural land in two ways: through the land allocation process that is coupled with land rights education and agricultural training efforts and through an allocation of market garden plots. Mali recognizes the rights of women to grow what they choose on these lots for home consumption or for sale at market.
- The $12.9 million Burkina Faso Threshold Program supports girls primary education. The Program includes construction of new girl friendly schools with day care centers, on-site canteens, separate male and female sanitary facilities, female mentoring, and teacher training.
- In Cape Verde, which has a $110 million Compact, a womens organization, one of the largest providers of microfinance in the country, has been particularly active in early consultations and design of the program. Cape Verde recently changed the composition of its Stakeholders’ Committee, a consultative body to the Steering Committee of MCA-Cape Verde,to add a representative from the Cape Verdean Institute for Gender Fairness and Equity.
- In Nicaragua, which has a $175 million Compact, women from the Northwest region formed a council to represent the interests of women farmers. As a result, MCA-Nicaragua, the entity tasked with implementing the Compact, established a consultative council with female representatives to help shape the rural development and land titling components of the Compact. This consultative council will oversee implementation and monitoring of progress of the gender integration strategy. Planned activities include development of programmatic norms and tools to incorporate gender in the activities of each project component.
- In Madagascar, which has a $110 million Compact, a key land tenure indicator will assess the number of new title and land certificate holders disaggregated by gender.
- Honduras, in its $215 million Compact, requires that the rural development project include a strategy to increase the overall number of female farmers and employees. The project supports farmer training and development by combining agriculture training and small business skills relevant to small and medium sized farms and addresses gender differences and inequalities.
- In Ghana, the $547 million Compact includes an initiative supported by women seeking safer access to cash and credit. Enhancing the capacity of rural financial institutions to deliver credit and linking them with the national payments system will reduce the need for rural women to hold large quantities of cash and reduce associated risks such as theft and loss by other means.
- In El Salvador, which has a $461 million Compact, many women are unable to afford a middle-school education. Many abandon school due to the birth of a child, the need to raise younger siblings, a lack of access to schools, or the absence of practical training geared for the rural economy. MCC funds will be used to improve and expand training in 20 middle schools, where barriers to enrollment will be eliminated for at-risk students. This means that young women, especially those with children, will not have to travel long distances to attend school. Scholarships will be offered to poor students, with at least 50 percent of scholarships made available to girls.
- As part of its Compact proposal, Tanzania identified womens access to water and electricity as key rationale for infrastructure improvements around the country. By linking the proposed MCC program to decreasing womens time spent on water and firewood collection, the government of Tanzania has pinpointed where the gender differences in roles and responsibilities may impact overall Tanzanian economic development. MCC is seeking to ensure the infrastructure projects take into consideration these gender differences and will help to alleviate the expensive time burden placed on Tanzanian women.
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.