Good afternoon. Thank you, Cassandra, for your introduction and for all of your work on this important subject.
I want to thank Senator Cardin for joining us today. He has shown a strong leadership on the issue of gender equality, and I know he will continue to do so as the new Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance.
We are also honored to have the presence of Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who are champions of gender equality here at home and around the world.
I should mention that Senators Cardin and Shaheen recently teamed up with Senators Collins and Snowe to introduce a resolution in honor of International Women’s Day. Thank you both for your support on this important issue, and MCC looks forward to working with you.
Gender equality is a priority at MCC. We can only achieve economic prosperity when men and women are equal champions of development. At MCC we are committed to making sure our investments benefit both men and women equally. We’ve seen economic gains made by women using MCC investments. In my travels, I’ve spoken to women in Honduras, El Salvador, Georgia and Cape Verde who shared their stories.
Another major constraint to growth is lack of access to education for girls.
Let me give you an example of some of the promising results we are seeing at MCC.
MCC partnered with Burkina Faso on the BRIGHT program. This program is intended to increase girls’ enrollment and completion rate.
Through this program, 132 schools were built in the areas with the lowest attendance rates for girls.
And I’m proud to say the program worked. Today, in a region where girls would normally be greatly outnumbered at school, enrollment for girls is actually higher than for boys.
The program is so successful that we are now in a new phase—expanding the 132 schools so they can offer higher grade levels.
And it’s a pleasure to have two of the finest students from the BRIGHT program here today — Aissatou Diallo and Fatimata Yanta.
The girls attended the White House reception on International Women’s Day, where Aissatou had the privilege to introduce the First Lady. We are extremely proud of them and the hard work they have done.
I think they deserve a round of applause.
At MCC, we are always looking for innovative ways to fully integrate gender in our programs, and so I am especially pleased that we are having this discussion today.
Now I would like to turn it over to Senator Ben Cardin.