The $350.7 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact in Malawi, which ended in September 2018, was designed to boost the country’s economic growth by strengthening the power sector.
The investment specifically addressed infrastructure, policy reform and environmental management.
Women play a key role in managing natural and community resources, so addressing gender equality was necessary to ensure the compact’s lasting impact.
The compact promoted job opportunities for women on the construction sites and policy reforms to boost women’s participation in the energy sector.
Grace Ghambi shows us how efforts to empower women economically can have far-reaching benefits.
Long before receiving an MCC-sponsored scholarship to study electrical engineering at the University of Malawi, Ghambi was already determined not only to pursue her interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), but also to inspire other young people—especially girls to pursue their dreams.
Over her holidays from the university, she mentored young girls in her community about their futures.
Today, Grace leads Focus Action Results (FAR), a youth organisation which has reached about 70 000 people.
FAR works on a range of activities, from training women in skills such as entrepreneurship and making re-usable sanitary pads to bringing more girls to school and helping orphanages implement good hygiene to beat the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The project aims at building passion in young people,” Ghambi says. “I believe through this platform young people can share ideas, innovate, receive mentorship and get resources that will help them take leadership roles in addressing the most urgent issues facing the world.”
Ghambi believes the opportunities and scholarships she received through MCC-funded projects boosted her confidence to “start thinking outside the box”.
She credits the personal interest MCC chief executive officer Sean Cairncross has taken by keeping up with her organisation’s efforts through emails.
“It has motivated me to keep going even when I feel like giving up,” she says.
Ghambi currently works for Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) as part of an MCC-funded project to increase women’s participation in the energy sector.
Based on her experience, she believes MCC’s work in Malawi will help women and girls across her country.
“MCC agenda to empower women economically will help to enlighten women and girls in Malawi,” she said. “I believe that by singling girls and women out, using gender-specific language and addressing their needs, we can help even more girls and women defend their rights, live full lives, and thrive in their community.”
With this approach, Ghambi sees many women playing leading roles in their societies and contributing to the country’s economic growth.
In December 2018, Malawi was selected as eligible to develop a second compact with MCC.
The compact being developed seeks to transform and diversify the economy and reduce poverty, particularly through land reform, agriculture and agribusiness, and bringing down the cost of road transportation.
As with every MCC compact, it will integrate gender issues at every level—from the development and design of programmes to project implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programme impacts.
Ghambi is excited about the potential benefits of this new compact for women and youth in her country.
She says: “I believe this will be a great opportunity for women and young people to contribute to economic growth.
“I believe that this project will help women to become economically independent. In return, this will reduce problems women and young people face, such as gender-based violence and malnutrition.”
When women have higher incomes and are economically empowered to decide how that income is spent, everything changes for the better.
MCC work in the country is just an example of how its investment model consistently works with partner countries to unlock the economic potential of women.
This helps break down financial, legal, and cultural barriers that prevent women from fully engaging in their countries’ economies.
The work to economically empower women demonstrates MCC support for the goals of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative (W-GDP).
Funded by the American People, MCC will continue to create opportunities for women as part of its mission to reduce global poverty.