Cui Prodest LLC, a small women-owned consulting firm, provides ongoing gender and social inclusion support to the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) compact development in Malawi, specifically in the areas of agriculture, transportation, market linkages, and financial inclusion. Cui Prodest integrates the gender lens into MCC’s Economic Constraints Analysis by adapting the Hausmann, Rodrik, and Velasco (HRV) growth diagnostic to better capture the differential impact of a given constraint on men, women, youth, and vulnerable populations. Cui Prodest supported the gender-related research of the root cause analysis in Malawi in 2019. The Cui Prodest highlighted the difficulties in accessing land for investment due to mismanagement of the estate sector, poor linkages and logistical challenges of getting goods to market, and unclear land rights for female smallholder farmers.

Earlier this year, Cui Prodest co-led the MCC market mapping and competitive landscape analysis of 40 agricultural firms and cooperatives in Malawi to identify best practices of inclusive economic growth and to estimate the profitability of commercially viable and scalable markets for potential investors. This landscape analysis produced a significant finding that the impact of uncontrolled side-selling and poor transportation meant that the MCC’s planned grant/investment facility would need to expend unanticipated resources to address side-selling and incentivizing partnerships with smallholder producers. Otherwise, female smallholder farmers and producers would not benefit sufficiently from the investment.

Cui Prodest’s Theory of Change (TOC) outlines the three conditions necessary for genuine and sustainable women’s economic empowerment: Increased Capacities, Decision-making Power, and Enabling Environment. Our TOC is based on the implementation of gender, social inclusion, governance and livelihood programs, conducting gender analyses and assessments to support the development of USAID Country Development Cooperation Strategies (CDCS) and key informant interviews and focus group discussions with thousands of local beneficiaries and end-users of donors’ gender-focused and inclusive development activities. An integrated approach founded on culturally sensitive analysis, applied research, tested tool kits, and relevant field experience is critical to understanding the intersection of identities and factors that contribute to gender inequality gaps. Transformative approaches are essential to addressing the root causes behind existing gender inequalities. Our specialists have learned that financial inclusion builds upon a whole-of-community, intergenerational approach that engages men and women, boys and girls to address the barriers negatively affecting the financial needs of women and youth, including negotiating social behaviors, gender norms, and the perceived social value of their economic contributions.

Cui Prodest supports MCC and USAID to integrate gender transformative approaches into WEE holistic programming. For example, in addressing gender gaps in the adaption of creation and adaption of financial products, it is necessary to take into consideration:

  • Digital Literacy – illiteracy, lack of awareness, not user friendly, limited STEM education
  • Cultural Perceptions – isolation, lack of access, competing investment priorities (health and education), potential theft or violence associated with ownership of bank accounts or other financial services
  • Enabling Environment – women do not have identification documents, no collateral or property, regulations do not favor women
  • Design – cost is prohibitive, difficult to navigate communication interfaces, not user-centered for females, problematic coverage for rural communities.

Finally, WEE programs must be evidence-based and there are many lessons that can be derived from USAID, MCC and World Bank WEE programs, especially new learnings that will be generated by the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). Cui Prodest’s Brenda Pearson is supporting Integra as the Team Leader of its ongoing W-GDP Mid-term Portfolio Performance Mid-term Evaluation and the Final Evaluation scheduled in early 2023.

Small businesses are innovating systems-based approaches in quantitative and qualitative monitoring, evaluation, data quality assessments, and learning methodologies as well as longitudinal, experimental, quasi-experimental surveys to generate actionable insights that will improve the enabling environment and increase economic opportunities for women and marginalized groups.