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$1 billion earmarked over the next two years to people and causes that support women, families and reproductive rights from Melinda French Gates
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$1 billion earmarked over the next two years to people and causes that support women, families and reproductive rights from Melinda French Gates

Melinda French Gates, the outgoing co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says she will give $1 billion over the next two years to people and causes that support women, families and reproductive rights.

“While I have long focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, in the post-Dobbs era, I now feel compelled to support reproductive rights here at home,” French Gates wrote in a New York Times op-ed as she outlined her plans for the year, saying how for too long money “has forced organizations fighting for women’s rights into a defensive posture while the enemies of progress play offense. I want to help even the match.”

French Gates, a philanthropist and founder of Pivotal Ventures, earlier this month said she was stepping down on June 7 as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation three years after the Gates’ Aug. 2021 divorce.

“Today, I’m excited to share more about the next chapter of my philanthropy,” French Gates put on X early Tuesday morning with a link to her NTY op-ed.

Over the last few weeks, she said, she had been directing grant money to U.S. groups — such as the National Women’s Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights — that work to “protect the rights of women and advance their power and influence.”

“Many years ago,” she wrote, “I received this piece of advice: ‘Set your own agenda, or someone else will set it for you.'”

French Gates, 59, previously said under the terms of the agreement with her ex-husband upon her departure from the foundation they created almost 25 years ago — one of the world’s biggest — she will retain more than $12 billion “to commit to my work on behalf of women and families,” she said at the time.

She said “decades of research on economics, well-being and governance make it clear that investing in women and girls benefits everyone.”

“We know that economies with women’s full participation have more room to grow. That women’s political participation is associated with decreased corruption,” she wrote. “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.”

But yet around the globe, she claimed, “women are seeing a tremendous upsurge in political violence and other threats to their safety.”

Nearly 6 million U.S. women have become pregnant as a result of rape or sexual coercion, researchers reported recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, while a recent United Nations report said disparities in worldwide reproductive and sexual health equity are widening, even as remarkable advances have been achieved.

French Gates called U.S. maternal mortality rates “unconscionable,” noting how Black and Native American women in particular are high risk.

“Women in 14 states have lost the right to terminate a pregnancy under almost any circumstances,” she pointed out, adding how the United States is “the only advanced economy without any form of national paid family leave.”

Later in this year, French-Gates said she will introduce a $250 million initiative focused on improving the mental and physical health of women and girls globally because, she said, “the number of teenage girls experiencing suicidal thoughts and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness is at a decade high.”

“When we allow this cause to go so chronically underfunded, we all pay the cost,” the mother of three says.

“As a young woman, I could never have imagined that one day I would be part of an effort like this,” she said in her NYT piece. “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.”

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