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Helping Women In Small Business

St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong is out at first base as Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli takes the pick off throw to end Game 4 of baseball's World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Oct. 27, 2013, in St. Louis. The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals 4-2.

Empowering women in developing countries through economic opportunity is an important goal of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, is a United States Government Corporation based on the principle that economic aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom and investments in people. MCC uses objective, third-party measurements of policy performance in these areas to determine which countries qualify for assistance. Since its establishment in January 2004, MCC has approved multiyear funding agreements totaling more than six-billion-two-hundred-million dollars in eighteen countries.

Beneficiaries of the MCC approach include ten Nicaraguan women who formed the Co-Fochinorte tree nursery. The cooperative struggled to succeed until 2007. Then it received a contract to supply trees under a commercial forestry project funded through the MCC's five-year agreement with Nicaragua. The contract allowed Co-Fochinorte to produce trees on a large scale for the first time and pay its members decent salaries. That year the co-op produced one-hundred-thousand trees and received a contract to provide even more trees in 2008.

In Madagascar, Millennium Challenge Corporation funding is being used to help women gain access to credit so they can open and expand small businesses. Sylvie Faramihaja, a credit counselor, uses her new MCC-funded moped to travel to communities in eastern Madagascar to teach women how to obtain a loan and manage a business. Counselors like Ms. Faramihaja also work with microcredit support groups, which help women get small loans without collateral and ensure the loans are repaid in weekly installments. The group-based approach to credit is proving effective. MCC reports a nearly one-hundred percent repayment rate from its borrowers.

In Lesotho, MCC worked with the government to ensure that gender equality was legally guaranteed before it agreed to provide the country with long-term funding. The Millennium Challenge Corporation convinced the Lesotho government that economic development would be only half as effective if half of Lesotho's population was excluded from the formal economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is an outstanding example of the U.S. commitment to helping women escape poverty and build sustainable livelihoods, but it is not alone. The United States is deeply committed to addressing issues that are important to women throughout the world.