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May 29, 2024

Melinda Gates Pledges $1 Billion for Women’s Rights and Empowerment

Melinda French Gates has announced a groundbreaking commitment of $1 billion over the next two years to support individuals and organizations championing women’s rights and family welfare globally, with a significant focus on reproductive rights in the United States. This pledge marks French Gates’ second billion-dollar commitment in the past five years, following her 2019 promise to enhance women’s power and influence over a decade.

Earlier this month, French Gates revealed her decision to step down from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, redirecting her focus towards women and families. In light of her departure, she received $12 billion from Bill Gates to bolster her philanthropic endeavors.

As one of the foremost advocates for gender equity in the U.S., French Gates expressed her long-standing frustration with the hesitation around discussing gender equality, emphasizing in a New York Times essay the substantial evidence that investing in women and girls benefits society as a whole.

To date, French Gates has already begun allocating a portion of this pledge, directing $200 million through her organization, Pivotal Ventures, towards U.S.-based groups dedicated to protecting women’s rights and enhancing their influence. This funding, provided as general operating support, is not restricted to specific projects, allowing recipients flexibility in addressing various needs.

Among the beneficiaries are the National Women’s Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Teresa Younger, President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, commended French Gates’ unrestricted, multi-year funding approach, noting its potential for significant impact. Younger emphasized that adopting similar strategies could greatly enhance the effectiveness of philanthropic efforts.

The nonprofit MomsRising Education Fund also received a grant extending through 2026. Its Executive Director and CEO, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, expressed deep gratitude for French Gates’ timely support, highlighting the importance of advocacy in an era where women’s rights are increasingly under threat.

In addition to these grants, French Gates has pledged to distribute $20 million each to 12 individuals by the end of 2026, enabling them to support nonprofit organizations of their choice. These funds will be managed by the National Philanthropic Trust, known for its donor-advised funds.

Out of the $1 billion commitment, $690 million has already been announced, including a $250 million fund for organizations improving women’s mental and physical health worldwide. An open call for applications, administered by Lever for Change, is set to take place this fall, ensuring a wide array of initiatives benefit from this substantial funding.

Pivotal Ventures, a limited liability company led by French Gates, manages both philanthropic and for-profit investments with a focus on enhancing women’s economic and political participation. Since its inception, it has directed $875 million of French Gates’ 2019 pledge towards various initiatives, including closing the wage gap, compensating care work typically performed by women, and encouraging female political candidacies.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, soon to be renamed the Gates Foundation, continues to be a major player in global philanthropy, with an endowment of $75.2 billion as of December 2023. While it addresses a range of issues, global health remains its primary focus, with significant funding directed towards international efforts.

In her essay, French Gates highlighted the critical issues facing women in the U.S., including high maternal mortality rates, particularly among Black and Native American mothers, the lack of national paid family leave, and the alarming rise in suicidal thoughts and persistent sadness among teenage girls. She underscored the urgent need for continued advocacy and support to address these challenges.

As she prepares to leave the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, French Gates remains steadfast in her commitment to advancing gender equity and supporting women’s rights, leveraging her substantial resources and influence to drive meaningful change.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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