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Empowering Women’s Rights: Melinda French Gates Announces $1 Billion Donation to Support the Cause

Empowering Women’s Rights: Melinda French Gates Announces $1 Billion Donation to Support the Cause

Melinda French Gates will donate $1 billion over the next two years to women and family rights around the globe, including reproductive rights in the post-Dobbs era.

“As shocking as it is to contemplate, my 1-year-old granddaughter may grow up with fewer rights than I had,” French Gates wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday.

The philanthropist, who announced earlier this month she’d step down from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and who separated from Microsoft founder Bill Gates three years ago, said her decision comes amid a backdrop of political violence against women and maternal health concerns globally.

She pointed out that women across the U.S. states have lost the right to terminate a pregnancy under almost any circumstances.

“We remain the only advanced economy without any form of national paid family leave. And the number of teenage girls experiencing suicidal thoughts and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness is at a decade high,” she wrote.

“Despite the pressing need, only about 2% of charitable giving in the United States goes to organizations focused on women and girls, and only about half a percentage point goes to organizations focused on women of color specifically,” she added.

French Gates noted that in her career as a women’s advocate, “I have learned that there will always be people who say it’s not the right time to talk about gender equality. Not if you want to be relevant. Not if you want to be effective with world leaders (most of them men).”

She called such a perspective “frustrating and shortsighted,” noting that decades of research “make it clear that investing in women and girls benefit everyone.”

“We know that economies with women’s full participation have more room to grow,” she explained. “That women’s political participation is associated with decreased corruption. That peace agreements are more durable when women are involved in writing them. That reducing the time women spend in poor health could add as much as $1 trillion to the global economy by 2040.”

French Gates has already begun directing new grants through her Pivotal Ventures organization to groups that “protect the rights of women and advance their power and influence” in the U.S. including the National Women’s Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In the fall, she’ll introduce a $250 million initiative focused on “improving the mental and physical health of women and girls globally” via an open call to grass-roots organizations. 

French Gates also recently offered 12 people — including former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, athlete and maternal health advocate Allyson Felix, and Afghan educator and women’s rights advocate Shabana Basij-Rasikh — their own $20 million grant-making fund to distribute as they see fit.

“I’m eager to see the landscape of funding opportunities through their eyes, and the results their approaches unlock,” French Gates said.

French Gates said she could have never imagined being part of an effort like this when she was young.

“Because I have been given this extraordinary opportunity, I am determined to do everything I can to seize it and to set an agenda that helps other women and girls set theirs, too,” she concluded.

The Gates Foundation, which French Gates spearheaded with her former husband, has made $77.6 billion of grant payments in its three-decade lifespan, making it one of the largest donor organizations in the world. 

In 2015, French Gates founded Pivotal Ventures, an initiative focused on advancing opportunities for women and minorities in the United States, especially in technology.

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